Family History and the Risk for Breast or Ovarian Cancer - Topic Overview
What is a BRCA gene change? continued...
Having a BRCA gene change is
rare. Most women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian
cancer don't have a BRCA gene change.
Before you have a gene
test, you will need to see a genetic counselor. Counseling will help you make
an informed decision about whether to have a BRCA gene test. It is often
covered by insurance, but check with your insurance company to find out for
Ashkenazi Jews are more likely to have one of these BRCA
genes. Some experts recommend genetic counseling for Ashkenazi women if they
have one or both of the following:4
- Any first-degree relative with breast or ovarian
cancer at age 50 or younger
- Two second-degree relatives on the same side of the family with breast or ovarian
If you are not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, some experts recommend genetic
counseling if you have one or more of the following:4
- Two first-degree relatives with breast cancer,
one of whom was diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Three or more first- or
second-degree relatives with breast cancer, diagnosed at any
- Both breast and ovarian cancers among your first- and second-degree relatives
first-degree relative with cancer in both breasts
- Two or more
relatives with ovarian cancer
- One relative with both breast and ovarian cancer
- A male relative with breast cancer
In the table below, the figures are only rough estimates from
research studies. Lifetime risk means the chance that you will get this cancer
sometime during your life. These numbers may not apply to you, but they can
give you an idea of how high your risk may be.
How does having a BRCA gene change affect your lifetime risk?
Breast cancer risk
Ovarian cancer risk
About 12 out of 100 women will get
About 1 out of 100 women will get
BRCA gene carriers
About 35 to 84 out of 100 will get
About 15 to 40 out of 100 will get
In the table above, the range for BRCA gene carriers is very
broad. That's because different studies have had different results. More study
is needed to get a clearer idea of what the risk is for women who have a BRCA gene change.
Pictures may help you understand these numbers better. See
the following pictures to get a better idea of how much a BRCA gene change
increases your risk for:
If you are worried that you may have a BRCA gene change, talk
to your doctor.
- Breast Cancer Risk: Should I Have a BRCA Gene Test?