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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test

A 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 developing 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.

You may be more likely to have a BRCA gene change if you:1

  • Were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50.
  • Have had breast cancer in both breasts.
  • Have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Have one or more male family members who have had breast cancer.
  • Have multiple cases of breast cancer in the family.
  • Have at least one family member who has had BRCA-related cancer.
  • Are an Ashkenazi Jew (a Jewish person whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe).

If you don't meet any of these criteria, you are not likely to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene change. Only about 2 or 3 out of 1000 adult women have a BRCA gene change.1

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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