BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that work to suppress tumors by helping to repair damaged DNA so that the DNA can continue to work in a healthy manner. If someone has a mutation in one or both of their BRCA genes, that DNA may not be repaired properly. This can lead to dysfunction and possibly to breast or ovarian cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the BRCA genes are responsible for 20 to 25 percent of all inherited breast cancers and 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers at large. These genes are also responsible for 15 percent of ovarian cancers. These rather unfortunate statistics are one reason, amongst others, that women are choosing not to have testing.
Here are the three most common statements women are reporting to avoid the BRCA gene test.
1) “I don’t want to live my life in fear if the results are positive.”
While it is true that a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer increases quite a bit with these genes, it is not an automatic guarantee. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many other risks factors.
These include starting your menstrual cycle early in puberty, going through menopause later in life, being on the night shift, having a long history of hormone replacement therapy, and having a history of radiation to the chest and/or breasts. Other factors that can increase risk are DES exposure, drinking alcohol, not exercising, and being overweight. Not having children, not breastfeeding, and having children at an older age are also factors that can put you at a higher risk.
Unfortunately, the BRCA genes seem to have the highest risk. Knowing this information may be scary but it will also allow for a great deal of planning and lifestyle changes. Plus it is very important information for future generations to know.
2) “I cannot afford to have the test done.”
First, determine with your doctor whether or not you need the test. It is not recommended to run it in the general population.