Results from these tests can help with family planning if you are considering having a baby. A genetic counselor can explain the testing options and what you are likely to learn by taking the test.
The counselor can also help you to explore options if you learn that you do have BRCA gene mutations. Some people with a positive BRCA test choose to have surgery to remove the breasts and/or ovaries and fallopian tubes, to reduce their risk of cancer.
Some also choose to take drugs such as tamoxifen which are cancer treatment drugs, even before they are diagnosed with cancer to try to prevent the disease from developing. Oral birth control pills may also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. It is recommended that women take them in their late 20s to early 30s.
If you have a positive BRCA test, your genetic counselor and doctor may give you a schedule for preventive tests starting at a younger age than normal. These might include monthly breast self-exams, biannual breast checks by your doctor, MRI scans and mammograms on alternate years, and many more tests designed to catch breast cancer early for most effective treatment.
BRCA 1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are rare. So people who do not have cancer will not need to be tested for BRCA mutations, unless their family history suggests an increased risk for cancer, or if they have specific types of breast cancer.
People with cancer may be tested for BRCA mutations if their family history suggests an increased risk of an inherited cancer. This testing is generally done to provide valuable information about possible cancer risks to other members of the family.
If you have questions about breast or ovarian cancer, or about your possible genetic risks to develop these cancers, talk to your health care provider.
National Cancer Institute. BRCA2 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing. Web. September 23, 2015.
Cancer.net. Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer. Web. September 23, 2015.