Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test
Why It Is Done
If your family history or personal history
indicates a high chance for breast cancer, a BRCA gene test is done to check your
chance of developing this cancer.
A BRCA gene test does
not test for cancer itself. It is used to help women who have a strong family
history of breast or ovarian cancer find out if their chance is high enough to
think about prevention measures before cancer develops. These measures include:
- Having screening tests (such as clinical breast exams, mammograms, and MRIs) more often and starting them at an earlier age.
- Taking medicines such as tamoxifen or raloxifene.
- Having a
- Having their ovaries removed
Men with a family history
of BRCA changes also may want to be tested to find their chance of breast cancer.
For a woman who has ovarian cancer, or for a man or a woman who has breast cancer,
results from a BRCA gene test can help other family members know their chances
of these and perhaps other cancers. If the person with breast or ovarian cancer
has normal BRCA gene test results, family members probably would not benefit
from the BRCA genetic test.
How To Prepare
Genetic counseling is strongly recommended before and
after a BRCA test to help you understand the benefits, risks, and possible
outcomes of the test. A BRCA test gives you the chance to make informed medical
and lifestyle decisions. Genetic counselors are trained to talk with you about
the test and its results, including the medical information and your emotional
This test may cause you some
worry, both before and after the test. Talk with a genetic counselor
before the test to help you prepare for and cope with this worry. Think about
what you may do if your test is positive. For example, would you consider any
prevention measures, such as the following:
- For breast cancer: A
yearly mammogram and/or an
MRI, a clinical breast exam at regular
times, preventive mastectomy (removal of both breasts), having your
ovaries removed, taking a medicine (tamoxifen), or having your
children before age 30
- For ovarian cancer:
Having your ovaries removed (oophorectomy) after
you are done having children, or after age 35
You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need
for the test, its risks, or how it will be done. To help you understand the
importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
No other special preparation is needed
before you have this test.
- Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?