Breast Cancer Genetic Testing
Breast Cancer Genetic Testing
For some people, genetic predispositions can leave them more likely to develop breast cancer in the future. The BRCA gene test utilizes DNA analysis to identify changes in certain genes. These mutations can signal one of the two most common breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Inherited mutations in these genes mean you are more likely to develop breast cancer in the future.
The test is only done for people who are suspected to have the inherited mutation in their genes. This genetic counseling offers our team the ability to better understand your risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Both BRCA mutations are uncommon and make up only 5% to 10% of total breast cancer cases. If you test positive for the mutation, our team of specialists can better evaluate the potential benefits of surgery and other forms of preventive treatment.
Who is a candidate for genetic testing for breast cancer?
If you exhibit one or more of these traits, you might be a candidate for testing:
- A personal history of a previous breast cancer diagnosis.
- A personal history of a previous ovarian cancer diagnosis.
- A family history of breast cancer in one or more relatives under the age of 60.
- A male relative with breast cancer.
- A relative with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
- Ashkenazi Jewish heritage with a close relative who has previously had breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer.
While there are no medical risks associated with BRCA testing, it is important to be aware of the psychological and logistic implications of a positive or negative BRCA gene test.
For positive gene mutation results, you might feel scared, overwhelmed, or upset. Feelings of being discriminated for health insurance benefits and strained family relations are also common. Preventive measures, such as surgery, are usually the next steps after a positive test, but the uncertainty can be taxing.
A negative or unclear test result can also spell uncertainty. Some genetic tests show a variation, but not one associated with cancer. If a family member you know has a positive gene mutation, survivor’s guilt is a common reaction to a negative or unclear result. Our team will help with the genetic counseling process to make sure your family has all the information you need to make informed decisions moving forward.
Getting your test and results
BRCA tests can be administered via a simple blood test or saliva tests for additional DNA analysis. Your test results may take up to two weeks, and our genetic counselors will call you for an in-person consultation of the results.
A positive result for mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 means you are statistically more likely to develop breast cancer than someone without the mutation, but it does not mean a guarantee of cancer in the future. Follow-up care is usually administered and includes increased screening, oral contraceptives (shown to help reduce cancer risk with positive mutations), chemoprevention, or preventive surgery.
Negative or uncertain results mean continued monitoring is usually the best next step, and new technologies are being developed to better understand ambiguous genetic results. We will walk you through the genetic testing process so you are informed and ready to act.