The Link Between BRCA and Breast Cancer

BRCA mutations can allow cancerous cells to divide and grow. Knowing that you have a BRCA mutation can impact your treatment options.


Quick review:


BRCA genes produce proteins that help repair the cell’s genetic material


When BRCA genes are mutated, this genetic material is not repaired properly, and the cells may turn cancerous


If you have a BRCA mutation, your risk of developing breast cancer increases

How to Get Tested for BRCA Mutations

If you don’t have breast cancer, BRCA testing can help inform you of your potential cancer risk. If you do have breast cancer, BRCA testing can help determine your treatment options. In fact, national guidelines recommend that women with breast cancer who meet certain criteria get BRCA tested. The earlier you get BRCA tested, the earlier you can discover potential treatments.

BRCA by the numbers

Having a BRCA mutation does not mean that you will get cancer, but it does increase your risk.

This year alone, breast cancer is estimated to be diagnosed in more than 252,000 women.

Of those 252,000 women, an estimated 12,600 to 25,200 have a BRCA mutation.

If you have a BRCA1 mutation, you have an estimated 72% chance of developing breast cancer by age 80. If you have a BRCA2 mutation, you have an estimated 69% chance of developing breast cancer by age 80.


When it comes to BRCA testing—don’t wait. Getting a BRCA test early could be a life-changing decision.

The impact on breast cancer treatment

You might be wondering why someone who already has cancer would consider BRCA testing, but genetics can play an important role when determining treatment options.

If you have breast cancer and test positive for a BRCA mutation, your treatment options could potentially change. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Some women with breast cancer are resistant to standard cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, making them less effective
  • Even if the cancer does respond to treatment, it can eventually return
  • People with breast cancer and a BRCA mutation have tumor cells that struggle to repair DNA damage in a certain way
  • Because of this, these cells rely more heavily on other ways to repair DNA damage, like using an enzyme called PARP
  • When PARP is stopped from repairing DNA damage, cancer cells struggle even more to repair DNA damage and are more likely to die
  • Knowing if you have ER-positive, PR-positive, HER2-positive, HER2-negative, or triple-negative breast cancer could determine treatment eligibility for certain therapies
  • ER-positive=estrogen receptor-positive.
  • HER2-negative=human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative.
  • HER2-positive=human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive.
  • PARP=poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase.
  • PR-positive=progesterone receptor-positive.