What Is the Breast Cancer BRCA Gene Test?

What is the BRCA gene test?

Women who have the BRCA gene have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Women who have the BRCA gene have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

BRCA genes (BRCA 1 and 2, when normal, repair damaged DNA) are among the genetic mutations linked to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers when mutated.

  • Every woman with a BRCA mutation is at high risk for breast cancer, irrespective of whether she has a family history of breast cancer or not.
  • By age 80, a woman with a BRCA mutation has about an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, by 54% and 23%, respectively.

What role does the BRCA gene test have in breast cancer?

  • The BRCA gene test analyses DNA to look for harmful mutations in two breast cancer genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).
  • Medical professionals perform this test as a routine blood test.
  • The test should only be performed on patients who have specific types of breast cancers or have a family history suggesting the possibility of having an inherited mutation.
  • These mutations are uncommon, and inherited BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about 5%-10% of breast cancers.

Who is a candidate for BRCA gene testing?

Discuss this with your health care provider or treatment team as this information is frequently updated. Guidelines for testing may include

  • a personal history of breast cancer diagnosis at a young age, bilateral breast cancer, breast and ovarian cancer diagnosis, or a personal history of ovarian cancer;
  • a family history of breast cancer at a young age (under 50) or ovarian cancer and a personal history of breast cancer;
  • a family member with bilateral breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or both breast and ovarian cancer;
  • a relative with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation; and
  • a male relative with breast cancer.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/11/2019
References
Kroener, L., D. Dumesic, and Z. Al-Safi. "Use of fertility medications and cancer risk: a review and update." Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol May 22, 2017.

Salerno, K.E. "NCCN Guidelines Update: Evolving Radiation Therapy Recommendations for Breast Cancer." J Natl Compr Canc Netw 15(5S) May 2017: 682-684.

Shield, Kevin D., et al. "Alcohol Use and Breast Cancer: A Critical Review." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Apr. 30, 2016.
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