Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test
BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene
changes are present.
Women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes
have about a 35% to 84% chance of developing breast cancer and between a 20%
and 40% chance of developing
ovarian cancer during their lifetimes.1, 3 These numbers show a wide range of chance and depend on your
other personal and family history.
Men with BRCA1 changes have a higher risk of breast cancer and possibly other cancers, such as pancreatic, testicular, or prostate cancer. Men with BRCA2 changes have an increased risk of breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.1
Uncertain (called variant of uncertain significance or VUS)
This result may mean that a gene change is present but it is
difficult for your doctor to know if the change is important and if it changes
your chances of developing cancer.
What Affects the Test
Your doctor will talk with you
about anything that may stop you from having the test or that may change the
What To Think About
There are several important things
to think about when you are making the decision to have a BRCA gene
- If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, a
negative BRCA result does not mean that you will not develop breast cancer.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene changes do cause a higher chance of breast cancer. But
other gene changes are possible and may cause cancer.
- If you have a
family member with breast cancer, think about asking the family member to be
tested for a gene change before you have a test. If your family member's BRCA
tests results are negative, it usually is not helpful to test the rest of the
insurance companies will cover the cost of genetic testing for those who meet
the conditions for testing.
- The discovery of
a genetic disease that is not causing symptoms now (such as breast cancer) should not affect your future ability to gain employment
or health insurance coverage. A law in the United States, called the Genetic
Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), protects people who have DNA
differences that may affect their health. This law does not cover life
insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care
- The United States Preventive Services Task
Force (USPSTF) does not recommend BRCA testing for women who do not
have family risk factors.2
- For women from families that do not have risk factors
for BRCA changes, a genetic test is not likely to give any useful information
about their chance of developing breast cancer. Women from
average-risk families rarely have a positive test. A BRCA
gene test is not recommended for a person without risk factors, because the
test can give a
false-positive test result.
- Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?
- Breast Cancer: What Should I Do if I'm at High Risk?
Genetic counseling before and after a BRCA test will help you understand
the benefits, risks, and possible outcomes of testing. A BRCA test gives you
the chance to make informed medical and lifestyle decisions. To find doctors who do
gene tests and counseling, call the cancer information service at the National
Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). To find a genetic
counselor near you, contact the National Society of Genetic Counselors at (312)
321-6834 or visit their website at www.nsgc.org.