Should I Be Tested for BRCA Mutations?

By Sara Bondell - August 20, 2019

Mutations in the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) can result in increased risk of developing breast, ovarian, peritoneal, fallopian tube and pancreatic cancers. The mutations can be passed from parent to child and account for 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases and 15% of ovarian cancer cases in women.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently updated its 2013 recommendations on risk assessment, genetic counseling and genetic testing for BRCA-related cancers. The task force recommends that primary care clinicians assess women with a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancers or who have ancestry associated with BRCA1/2 gene mutations with an appropriate brief familiar risk assessment tool. Women with a positive result should receive genetic counseling, and if indicated after counseling, genetic testing. The USPSTF recommends against routine risk assessment for those with no family history of the mutation.

“We are pleased that the USPSTF encourages primary care physicians to include a patient’s personal and/or family history of cancer in their care as well as stressing the importance of referring individuals at risk for inherited breast and ovarian cancer for genetic counseling, testing and preventative services,” said certified genetic counselor Christine Steele. “Genetic counseling and testing can provide opportunities for risk reduction, early detection or targeted treatment.”

While genetic testing is an extremely useful tool in determining if someone is at a higher risk for cancer, it is very complex, and is not the only factor that influences cancer risk. While BRCA1/2 mutations make up a large portion of inherited breast and ovarian cancer, there are also additional heredity cancer conditions that should be considered.

Moffitt Cancer Center has six board-certified genetic counselors as part of its Genetic Risk Assessment, which provides genetic counseling and testing services for patients and their families, as well as individuals unaffected by cancer who wish to learn more about their cancer risk. If patients are found to have an inherited cancer risk, they can enter Moffitt’s GeneHome Clinic, which manages surveillance and recommends prevention measures.

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