Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are two of the leading causes of death for women over the age of 50 in the United States.
There are many ways to develop breast cancer, but many people are genetically predisposed, or more susceptible, to developing it.
One way for women and men to learn if they are predisposed is to see if they have a mutation on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes in the body.
What are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genes?
Genes determine everything about you from your eye color, to your height, and everything in between. The information in your genes contain is inherited from both your mother and your father.
And you will pass your genes down if you chose to have children.
Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2) genes and, in most cases, they transfer information to produce proteins that suppress tumors and repair damage to DNA.
A small percentage of people, however, have inherited a mutation in one or both of these genes that significantly increases the risk of breast cancer in both men and women.
In the general population, women have around a 7% chance of getting breast cancer by age 70.
But, when looking at the population of women who have a mutation on one or both BRCA1/2 genes, that percentage skyrockets to 45%-65%.
One thing to keep in mind when talking about BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations is that even if you do have a mutation on those genes, it will not necessarily lead to cancer.
You are still able to live a healthy life with the mutations, there is just a heightened possibility you will develop it.
That being said, if you think you may have a mutation on these genes, it’s important for you to consider talking to your doctor.
What is BRCA Testing?
A BRCA gene test determines whether you carry an inherited BRCA mutation. During the test, your doctor will collect a blood sample and send it off to a lab. In a few weeks, you’ll know your whether you have a positive or negative BRCA mutation status.
There are no physical risks in getting the BRCA test done, other than the mental and emotional toll associated with getting blood drawn and waiting for the test results.
If you do have a mutation, your doctor can help you understand your cancer risk and go into immediate next steps.
Why is BRCA Testing Important?
The BRCA test is very important The benefit of BRCA1/2 testing comes from linking test results to interventions to reduce cancer risk.
If you have cancer, genetic testing can help provide information about your family’s risk of developing cancer. If you don’t have cancer, genetic testing can help inform you of your own cancer risk. With this knowledge, you can decide to take action.
Who Should Get the BRCA Test?
There are a lot of demographics that are at-risk for having a BRCA1/2 mutation. Consider getting tested if you have:
- A personal history of:
- Breast cancer diagnosed before age 50
- Triple negative breast cancer diagnosed before age 60
- Bilateral breast cancer
- Both breast and ovarian cancers
- Ovarian cancer
- A male relative who has/had breast cancer
- A family member who has/had both breast and ovarian cancers
- A family member who has/had bilateral breast cancer
- A relative who has/had ovarian cancer
- A relative with a positive result in a BRCA test
What Results Could Mean for Your Future
Knowing whether or not you carry a high-risk inherited genetic mutation empowers you with the information you need to choose the best breast cancer screening options for you.
Generally, if you test positive for a mutation, your doctor will recommend getting additional screening for both breast and ovarian cancers, such as mammograms and breast MRIs.
Cancers related to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations typically grow more quickly, so it’s important to create a plan with your doctor in order to tackle any issues head-on.
Whether you have a mutation or not, it’s important to know your health risks, plan for your future, and live a healthy, balanced life in order to prevent cancer.
The best way to do that is to consistently check in with your doctor to have routine health screenings, incorporating some sort of exercise into your lifestyle, and finding the diet that is best for your health and overall genetic makeup.
Finding the best diet for you can revolutionize the way you look at your health. To learn more about how you can start eating for your health, click here.