Understanding the Basics of BRCA Testing

Genetic testing can sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Find out what BRCA is and how testing for possible mutations could benefit you and your family.

Get to know BRCA

Watch the video that covers the BRCA basics from start to finish. You’ll find information on what a BRCA mutation is, why it’s important to get tested for one, and how to start the testing process with your doctor.

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Who should get tested for BRCA mutations?

 

If you are a woman with ovarian cancer, you should consider BRCA testing. Testing positive for a BRCA mutation determines whether or not you can receive certain treatments. Several national guidelines recommend that all women with ovarian cancer get BRCA tested:

  • Society of Gynecologic Oncology
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology

All women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, regardless of age or family history, should receive genetic counseling and be offered genetic testing.

— Society of Gynecologic Oncology

If your family has a history of cancer, consider getting BRCA tested. 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 is more commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancer, it’s important to note that men are also impacted by BRCA mutations. They should seek out testing to assess their own risk of developing cancer and the risk of passing a mutation along to their children.

Genetic results are valuable to inform other family members about their cancer risk.

— Society of Gynecologic Oncology
 

Why get tested?

Why get tested?

If you have cancer…

Knowing your BRCA status can help doctors decide on potential treatment options, such as targeted therapy. It can also help inform others in your family about their own cancer risk.

Reasons to Get BRCA Tested

If you do not have cancer…

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
 

“I wanted to help the rest of my family—my children and my grandchildren. That really was my biggest goal.”

— Rozzie, an ovarian cancer survivor who decided to know her BRCA status
 

Two different BRCA tests

Germline Test:

A germline test detects a hereditary BRCA mutation. This means that the mutation can be passed down within families. This type of test will inform your family about their potential risk of developing cancer and can be done at any time. It usually involves a DNA sample, such as blood or saliva.

Somatic Test:

A somatic test detects BRCA mutations but doesn’t identify if they are hereditary. This means that this type of test does not provide family risk information and can only be done in people who have cancer. Testing procedures usually involve removing a sample of the tumor tissue.