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BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that help control normal cell growth. Sometimes, people inherit changes in one of these genes. These changes are called mutations. If you inherit a mutation in a BRCA (say "BRAH-kuh") gene, you have a greater risk of breast and ovarian cancers as well as some other cancers, such as prostate and pancreatic cancers.
BRCA gene changes aren't common. If you are concerned that you may have a BRCA gene change, talk with your doctor. You can have genetic testing to find out if you have the BRCA mutation. A test may look just for BRCA gene changes. Or you may have a multi-gene panel test that also looks for other genes that can raise your cancer risk.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
A BRCA blood test is done to learn if you have a BRCA gene change. In Alberta, you may be able to have a gene test to look for a BRCA gene change if:
The results of a BRCA gene test can help you find out how high your cancer risk is. If it is high, you might decide to take steps to lower your risk. There are several things you might do, such as:
A negative test may give you a false sense of security. So you may not have the regular tests that help find cancer at an early stage. But a negative BRCA test does not mean that you will never have breast or ovarian cancer.
A positive test result may cause anxiety or depression. A positive BRCA test does not mean that you will definitely get breast or ovarian cancer.
Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older. There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. But with some cancers, finding them early can increase your chances of successful treatment.
Here are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk:
You can also help take care of yourself and reduce your risk of cancer if you:
People who do a gene test and find out that they have a BRCA gene change have some options to manage their cancer risk.
If you have a BRCA gene change, talk with your doctor about how you can manage your cancer risk.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter U252 in the search box to learn more about "Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Testing: Care Instructions".
Adaptation Date: 2/25/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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