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:
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 before the test.
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?
How It Is Done
The health professional drawing blood
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
- Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
- Apply pressure to the site and then a