A BRCA test looks for changes, known as mutations, in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Genes are parts of DNA passed down from your mother and father. They carry information that determine your unique traits, such as height and eye color. Genes are also responsible for certain health conditions. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that protect cells by making proteins that help prevent tumors from forming.
A mutation in a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene can cause cell damage that may lead to cancer. Women with a mutated BRCA gene have a higher risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. Men with a mutated BRCA gene are at a higher risk for getting breast or prostate cancer. Not everyone who inherits a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation will get cancer. Other factors, including your lifestyle and environment, can affect your cancer risk.
If you find out you have a BRCA mutation, you may be able to take steps to protect your health.
Other names: BRCA gene test, BRCA gene 1, BRCA gene 2, breast cancer susceptibility gene1, breast cancer susceptibility gene 2
This test is used to find out if you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. A BRCA gene mutation can increase your risk of getting cancer.
BRCA testing is not recommended for most people. BRCA gene mutations are rare, affecting only about 0.2 percent of the U.S. population. But you may want this test if you think you are at a higher risk of having the mutation. You are more likely to have a BRCA mutation if you:
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
You don’t need any special preparations for BRCA testing. But you may want to meet with a genetic counselor first to see if the test is right for you. Your counselor may talk with you about the risks and benefits of genetic testing and what different results can mean.
You should also think about getting genetic counseling after your test. Your counselor can discuss how your results may impact you and your family, both medically and emotionally.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
Most results are described as negative, uncertain, or positive, and typically mean the following:
It may take several weeks to get your results. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider and/or your genetic counselor.
If your results show you have a BRCA gene mutation, you can take steps that may lower your risk of breast cancer. These include:
You should talk with your health care provider to see what steps are best for you.