Why Do I Need a BRCA Genetic Test?

Jan 11, 2023
Genetic Test
BRCA genetic testing pinpoints mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that increase your risk of certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancers. If your doctor recommended a BRCA genetic test, here’s what it could mean for your health.

Your body has somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. All your genes are made of DNA and they contain specific instructions that tell all the cells in your body how to grow and function over your lifetime.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are just two of these genes, but they play a critical role in fighting certain types of cancers. A BRCA genetic test screens for a mutation in these genes that can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer — particularly breast and ovarian cancer. 

At Path MD Labs in Los Angeles, California, our team specializes in molecular genetic testing. We use advanced laboratory techniques to study and analyze DNA to look for BRCA mutations. This month, we’re taking a closer look at why you might need a BRCA genetic test.

If your doctor recommended getting a BRCA genetic test, here are a few possible reasons why:

You have a high risk of BRCA mutation

Anyone can develop cancer, but some people are at higher risk of certain types of cancer than others. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are linked to breast and ovarian cancer. These mutations are inherited, which means they’re passed down from parents to children.

If you have a BRCA mutation, these genes can’t function properly and your risk of cancer is higher. You may be more likely to have a BRCA gene mutation if:

You have a family history of certain cancers

Since BRCA mutation is genetic, a family history of breast or ovarian cancer puts you at increased risk of BRCA mutation. Your doctor may recommend a BRCA genetic test if you have a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast or ovarian cancer.

Your doctor might also recommend genetic testing if you have a family history of certain other types of cancer, such as male breast cancer or pancreatic cancer, or if you have a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer.

You’re of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry 

Your doctor may also recommend a BRCA genetic test if you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Ashkenazi Jews are a group of Jews who are descended from Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Studies have shown that Ashkenazi Jews are more likely to have BRCA mutations than the general population. In fact, as many as one in 40 Ashekazi Jewish women has a BRCA genetic mutation.

Genetic testing can inform your care

Finding out that you have an increased risk of cancer can be scary, but getting screened offers important insight into your health. If you have one of these genetic mutations, knowing you have it gives you the opportunity to get the most appropriate care.

BRCA genetic testing provides important information about your cancer risk, which you and your health care team can use to help reduce that risk.

If you have a BRCA mutation, your doctor may recommend different cancer screening tests or treatments than they would for someone without the mutation. For example, you may need more frequent mammograms or ovarian cancer screenings, medications to help reduce your risk of cancer, or preventive surgery.

A BRCA genetic test can also provide important information for your family members. If you have a BRCA mutation, your family members may also be at an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Knowing this can help them make informed decisions about their own health and can help them take steps to reduce their own cancer risk.

Could you have a BRCA mutation? Genetic testing is the only way to get a diagnosis — and now is the time to find out if it’s recommended for you. Contact our team online to learn more.