Understanding your genetic predisposition to breast cancer can help you and your healthcare provider make more informed decisions about your health.
Whether or not you have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, this test might have important implications for you. Women who carry a BRCA mutation and know about it can start cancer screening at an earlier age, take risk-reducing medication, or elect to undergo preventive surgery.
Here’s what you need to know:
The test for the genetic mutation, called BRCA, is a simple blood test, but it’s not for everyone. It’s not always covered by insurance, so you should know whether you’re one of the 2 percent of women who have a family history that makes them more likely to have the BRCA mutation.
What family history may make a person more likely to have the BRCA gene mutation and therefore may want to consider undergoing BRCA testing:
In all, between 0.125 and 0.25 percent of women will test positive for the BRCA mutation. These women have an increased risk of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
If you do test positive for BRCA, you have different options.
The decision to surgically remove your breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer is a highly personal one. Detailed discussions with your surgical oncologist, plastic surgeon, and genetic counselors are important steps in considering whether and when a prophylactic mastectomy is right for you.
While studies have shown a significant risk reduction and likely survival benefit in women with a BRCA mutation who undergo preventive surgery, their risk does not drop to zero. There is still a low chance of developing breast cancer in the chest wall, and ovarian cancer in the pelvic cavity.
While the information presented here represents the medical tip of the iceberg, the hope is that it can begin the process of informing, educating and empowering both women and men about this kind of genetic mutation and cancer risk.
Please feel free to contact the UCLA Santa Monica Breast Center at (424) 259-8791 if you have additional questions.