If you are thinking of having this test or any cancer testing, please make an appointment with a doctor so that you can discuss your concerns, personal & family history, & make a decision that is medically fully supported. We are here to help you through every step of the process.
Harmful mutations in the BRCA I & II genes can be inherited from either parent, although if a parent has the mutation, it is not guaranteed that the child will have the same one (there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on). The BRCA I & II mutations hit the headlines in 2013 when actress Angelina Jolie had a preventative double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
These mutations drastically increase the risks of developing breast & ovarian cancers at a young age. The general risk of a woman developing breast cancer is about 12%, but the risks for those who have a harmful mutation in BRCA I or II are as high as 70%. The mutation also indicates a much higher risk of having a second diagnosis of breast cancer in those who have already had the disease. Similarly, the general risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1.3%, but for those with the gene mutation, the risk goes up to 44%.
The risk factors for having the mutated gene are related to family history or an existing diagnosis of breast cancer before the age of 50. Multiple cases of breast cancer in one family, or a family member with a breast cancer diagnosis in both breasts also suggest an increased likelihood of having the mutation. Race is a factor, with Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity carrying the highest risk, as well as Norwegian, Dutch, & Icelandic heritage.
There are no specific symptoms that indicate the need for BRCA I & II testing, & the decision to go ahead with testing should be discussed with the doctor beforehand. Factors to include when considering having this test are:
A history of breast cancer before the age of 50, or breast cancer diagnoses affecting both breasts
Having one or more relatives with a diagnosis of breast cancer before the age of 50, or bilateral breast cancer
A history of triple negative breast cancer before the age of 60
A history of breast & ovarian cancer
Having two or more relatives with breast cancer
Having one relative with ovarian cancer
Having a relative who is known to have a BRCA I or II mutation