Surprising Facts About Breast- and Ovarian-Cancer Genes [Video]

  • Breastcancer.org has found out that only 5 to 10% of breast and ovarian cancers are hereditary.
  • If you do not have family members who developed breast and ovarian cancers before they are 50, you are most likely at low risk.
  • Genetic testing is now more affordable but most women don’t need it.

As filmmaker Angelina Jolie said when she had a double mastectomy after learning from a genetic test that she carries the BRCA1 gene, “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”

Knowing your options can help you decide if you want to have a mastectomy and/or oophorectomy, or even if it is right for you or not.

Here are 5 facts about BRCA:

1. Most cases of breast cancer are completely random—not due to BRCA genetic mutations

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Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer are genetic as Breastcancer.org states. It is when the BRCA genes do not function normally and have faulty mutations that one develops hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

2. Most women don’t need genetic testing

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Women who have increased risks are the only ones who should be tested.Breastcancer.org says to check on your relatives to know your family’s cancer history.

Here is what to look for:

  • Health history of first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) and second-degree relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews).
  • If you find BRCA (breast and ovarian cancer) cases in one or two of your relatives who were diagnosed before the age of 50.
  • You are at high risk if you have Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jewish ancestry or relatives have BRCA mutations (this can be detected through a lab blood test screening that takes weeks to show results)

3. Not everyone with a BRCA gene mutation will develop cancer

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The risk of ovarian cancer is high if you have defective BRCA genes. Women who have BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 mutation have a 72% risk of having breast cancer compared to those who do not have BRCA mutations.

For those who test positive, having a mastectomy and/or oophorectomy and removing ovaries is an option.

Heather Hampel, associate director, Division of Human Genetics at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus explains that not all who test positive for the mutations are at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer as the risks widely vary. Watch and wait is an option too instead of operating immediately.   

4. The highest risk family member may want to get tested first

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Hampel says, “Start with the person who has cancer if that person is still alive and willing to be tested and then test at-risk relatives if you find the mutation. Every woman with ovarian cancer and everyone with pancreatic cancer warrants gene testing and all men with metastatic or spreading prostate cancer consider gene testing as BRCA mutations are also common in these cancers.”

A genetic counselor will aid in helping you decide if you want to be tested for breast or ovarian cancer, and if positive, what treatments to undergo.

5. The test is less expensive than in the past, and insurance may cover it

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From $4,000, BRCA testing can be as low as $250 today. If you meet certain criteria, most insurers will cover testing costs.

Source: The Healthy



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