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 BRCA (say "BRAH-kuh") mutation, you have a greater risk of breast or ovarian cancer.
You also have a higher risk of breast or ovarian cancer if you have a family history of them. Some people have a family history, but they don't have the BRCA mutation.
To find out if you have the BRCA mutation, you can have a blood test. People who have the mutation have a higher risk for these cancers. But not everyone with the mutation gets cancer.
Talk to your doctor about things that may increase your risk. Let your doctor know if you or a family member had or has:
Your doctor may also want you to talk with a genetic counsellor. The counsellor can help you understand what the results of this test might mean.
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 call line 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.
You may feel better if the test shows that you don't have a BRCA mutation. This is called a negative result.
If the test shows that you do have a BRCA mutation, it's called a positive result. In this case, you may be able to make some decisions that could reduce your cancer risk. The information may also be helpful to your family and loved ones.
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.
It's important to think carefully about what the test results could mean for you. A genetic counsellor can help you do this.
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 changes 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:
Men and women who do a gene test and find out that they have a BRCA gene change have some options to manage their cancer risk.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Wendy Y. Chen, MD, MPH - Medical Oncology, Hematology
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