Breast Cancer (BRCA) Genetic Testing

What is breast cancer (BRCA) genetic testing?

Breast cancer (BRCA) genetic testing is a blood test that checks for harmful changes (mutations) in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. It can help determine your risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

About 5 to 10% of breast cancers are hereditary, which means they can be passed down from one generation to the next. Most inherited breast cancer are associated with BRCA gene mutations but there are other mutations that can also increase the risk of cancers

How accurate is breast cancer (BRCA) genetic testing?

The results of genetic tests are not always conclusive. BRCA genetic testing can be helpful in identifying if you are at higher risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. However, this does not mean that you will actually develop cancer.

Why do you need breast cancer (BRCA) genetic testing?

If you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, you are at a much higher risk of developing:

BRCA screening criteria

If you have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, it is recommended that you have the BRCA genes tested.

BRCA genetic testing is not regularly done on those who are at average risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Generally, it is not recommended unless you have specific risk factors, such as:

  • A history of breast cancer diagnosed before age 50
  • A history of ovarian cancer
  • A history of male breast cancer
  • One or more relatives who have been diagnosed with a BRCA gene mutation
  • Multiple cancer diagnoses in your family, especially at a young age

Knowing if you have a genetic predisposition to cancer allows you to take better preventive measures and work out an appropriate screening and treatment plan with your doctor.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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