BRCA in an acronym that stands for Breast Cancer susceptibility gene (“BReast CAncer”). There are two BRCA genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA2, that everyone is born with, which you inherit from your parents. Healthy BRCA genes work to restore DNA that may be damaged and keep tumors from growing. But when either of these genes becomes mutated, they can no longer do their job, leading to an increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Fortunately, these genetic mutations are generally rare, but don’t let that stop you from getting tested if you believe you’re at risk. Here are 10 important things you need to know to help you understand what the BRCA mutation test is and who needs it.
10. BRCA Test Isn’t Routinely Performed
Only about 10 percent or fewer of patients with breast cancer actually have cancer because of a BRCA gene mutation. Experts recommend that only individuals who are high-risk for having the mutation should have the test. Those whose family history of cancer caused by BRCA gene mutations are typical candidates for testing. For everyone else, women should follow their doctors’ recommendations regarding pap smears and mammograms for cancer screening.
9. Uncertain Test Results Occur
BRCA test results can be uncertain. A negative result does not necessarily give your doctor a definite picture of your risk status. A negative result doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop cancer someday, and a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop cancer. Working with your doctor to figure out what steps to take next may include genetic counseling and additional cancer screening.
8. Men and Women Get the Test
Both men and women who have a family medical history of cancer related to the BRCA gene mutation may have genetic counseling to determine the need for testing. Men and women who inherit the harmful mutations are at risk of passing the mutation on to their offspring. A child stands a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation from a parent.
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