Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test
breast cancer (BRCA) gene test is a blood test to check for specific changes
(mutations) in genes that help control normal cell growth. Finding changes in
these genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, can help determine your chance of
breast cancer and
ovarian cancer. A BRCA gene test does not test for
cancer itself. This test is only done for people with a strong family history
of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, and sometimes for those who already have
one of these diseases.
Genetic counseling before and after a BRCA test is
very important to help you understand the benefits, risks, and possible
outcomes of the test.
A woman's risk of breast
and ovarian cancer is higher if she has BRCA1 or BRCA2
gene changes. Men with these gene changes have an increased risk of breast cancer. And both men and women with these changes may be at an increased risk for other cancers. The gene changes can be inherited from either
your mother's or father's side of the family.
Certain people have
a higher chance of inheriting BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes.1
- Ashkenazi Jewish women (whose ancestors
came from Eastern Europe) are more likely to be BRCA gene carriers.
Some experts recommend gene tests for women who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
if they have one or both of the following:
- Any first-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer at age 50 or younger.
First-degree relatives are parents, sisters and brothers, and
- Two second-degree relatives on the same side of the
family with breast or ovarian cancer. Second-degree relatives are aunts and
uncles, nieces and nephews, and grandparents.
- If you are not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent,
some experts recommend a gene test if you have one or more of the
- Two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, one of whom
was diagnosed before age 50
- Three or more first- or second-degree
relatives with breast cancer, diagnosed at any age
- Both breast and
ovarian cancer among your first- and second-degree relatives
- A first-degree relative with cancer in
- Two or more relatives with ovarian
- One relative with both breast and ovarian
- A male relative with breast cancer
If you don't meet any of these criteria, you are not likely to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene change. Only about 2 out of 100 adult women have an increased risk of having a BRCA gene change.2