There are several important things to think about when you are making the decision to have a BRCA gene test.
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 family.
Most 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 insurance.
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.
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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.