You may have heard about BRCA mutations. They are changes or alterations seen in your BRCA genes that are useful to know about for 2 different reasons: to inform your treatment options and to inform you of your family’s risk of certain cancers.
The sooner you are BRCA tested, the sooner you and your doctor can develop a personalized treatment plan.
If you have certain cancers, consider BRCA testing. Testing positive for a BRCA mutation helps your healthcare team determine what treatments you're eligible for. Several national guidelines recommend that people with certain cancers get BRCA tested:
If your family has a history of cancer, talk to your doctor about getting tested for a BRCA mutation. If you have an inherited BRCA mutation, you could be at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Although BRCA mutations are more commonly associated with female breast and ovarian cancers, it’s important to note that men are also impacted by BRCA mutations. They should talk to their doctor and assess their own risk of developing cancer and the risk of passing a mutation along to their children.
Knowing your BRCA status empowers you and your doctor to approach treatment differently. Some therapies work differently depending on whether or not you have a BRCA mutation. This is why finding out if you have a BRCA mutation earlier can help your doctor determine what treatment options are right for you. It can also help inform others in your family about their own cancer risk.Reasons to Get BRCA Tested
Knowing your BRCA status will let you know if you’re at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. From there, you and your doctor can screen for cancer more frequently or decide to take preventive action. Finding out that you have a BRCA mutation can also prompt other family members to get tested to see if they are at risk.When BRCA Testing Can Help
It’s important to ask your doctor about testing for a BRCA mutation as soon as possible. For women with breast cancer, testing could happen as early as diagnosis or during surgery. If you test positive for a BRCA mutation, it can inform treatment decisions that are meant to stop cancer from progressing or returning.
Samples taken from tissue
This type of testing is comprehensive and looks for acquired mutations in the cells of your tumor. Pairing tumor testing with blood or saliva testing could identify BRCA mutations found only in tumor cells that would not be identified by a blood or saliva test alone. This makes it an important step to help determine which treatments are available to you.
Samples taken from blood or cheek swabs
This type of testing uses DNA to identify inherited (germline) BRCA mutations. If you find out you have a BRCA mutation with a tumor test, you may receive a blood or saliva test to see if it is inherited or not. This is important to determine your family’s cancer risk and your treatment options.
Be sure to ask your doctor about BRCA testing as early as possible to better understand your treatment options.
Ask how soon you’ll be tested for a BRCA mutation to see if you’re one step closer to a personalized treatment plan for your distinct disease.