Georgia's Online Cancer Information Center

Georgia Genetics Program

What is Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer?

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) is a condition in which breast and ovarian cancer “runs” in the family. Breast Cancer Gene 1 and 2 (BRCA1 & BRCA2) are two of many genes that normally protect against certain types of cancer (tumor suppressor genes). A mutation in these genes can cause HBOC.

3 things you should KNOW about HBOC   3 things that can HELP lower your risk for HBOC
  • We ALL have the BReast CAncer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2)
  • Cancer risks increase when there is a mutation in the BRCA genes
  • Mutations can be passed down from either parent

What are your options if you are at high risk for HBOC?

Identifying if you are at high risk for HBOC may help prevent a second cancer from developing, and may also prevent other family members from developing cancer. A range of care and treatment options are available for individuals at high risk for HBOC. Every person is different and a care plan should be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional. 

Life Style Changes: Consider individual behavior changes such as adding 5 or more fruits/vegetables to your diet each day, or increasing exercise to improve your overall health.

Enhanced Screening: Increase self-breast exams, clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, and/or MRIs.

Chemoprevention: Ask your healthcare provider about oral medications to help decrease your risk for breast cancer.

Risk Reduction Surgery: Ask your healthcare provider about the various operations that remove body tissue (such as breasts) that may be at risk for developing cancer.

The Solution

Risk assessment, screening and testing for HBOC-related mutations such as BRCA1/2 genes open the door to early diagnosis and cancer prevention. And it’s especially important to provide these services in settings that serve Georgia women who are minority or lack access to healthcare – they’re at the greatest risk.

Georgia CORE and the Georgia Department of Public Health have teamed up to reduce disparities through a statewide initiative to screen more Georgians and increase access to testing, counseling and management for those who have an HBOC-related mutation. This initiative includes:

  • Launching a website,, that allows visitors to complete a preliminary screening online. Those who are deemed at higher risk access information and are directed to resources for follow-up action;
  • Providing genetic risk assessment, screening, testing and counseling at public health and primary care centers for underserved women throughout Georgia;
  • Educating and training medical and public health professionals on guidelines for genetic screening and managing women deemed high-risk; and
  • Consulting with physicians on options for managing risk and preventing cancer.

The Results

  • 46,215 visitors to were screened from 2012-2019.

  • 13% were deemed an increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. All were directed to follow-up action for testing and counseling.

  • 785 Georgians received risk assessment and family history analysis in 1,223 pre- and post-test counseling sessions at 91 health centers throughout Georgia.

Profile of visitors to who were screened for risk of BRCA1/2 and other cancer predisposing mutations

The Need

Despite encouraging progress made through the statewide genetics initiative, testing for BRCA1/2 genetic mutations in Georgia is well below levels established by a number of top organizations. A study published in 2019 cited several factors for Georgia’s comparatively low rates:

1. Lack of awareness

2. Lack of physician referrals to have the test

3. Costs of genetic tests

Georgia CORE addresses these barriers by:

  • making more Georgia women aware of the importance of testing for cancer predisposing mutations;

  • making it easier for these women to get screened; and

  • providing genetic testing and services at no cost to underserved women; and educating healthcare professionals.

With funding from the Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia CORE provides risk assessment, family history analysis, testing and counseling (before and after tests) at no charge to underserved Georgia women.

Note: Testing for the BRCA1/2 or other genetic mutations is recommended only for people with a high risk. The use of a simple questionnaire in screening– which explores family history – helps determine that risk. If testing is recommended, it’s invaluable in protecting a woman’s health.

Resources are available for more information:



Bright Pink:

BRSTTM: BRSTTM summary & guidelines

HBOC: Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Brochure

Click here to find screening centers that have recently received the Breast Cancer License Tag grants, providing screening for Georgia's underserved and uninsured populations.

Contact us with questions.

Feel free to contact Georgia CORE's genetics nurse, Alice Kerber:, 404-584-1178.

Last Updated: 8/21/2020 12:00:00 AM

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