Breast Cancer Gene Testing

How much do you know about the breast cancer gene and genetic testing?

Are the following statements true or false?

1. There is only one breast cancer gene.

FALSE. At present, there are two known breast cancer genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Researchers continue to search for additional gene mutations that play a role in hereditary breast cancer.

2. Before getting tested for the breast cancer gene, you'll need to meet with a genetic counselor.

TRUE. It’s common practice to meet with a genetic counselor before breast cancer gene testing. The genetic counselor will review your family history with you and discuss the benefits and risks of getting tested. The counselor will also review your options if the results are positive.

3. Testing for the breast cancer gene consists of a mammogram and a blood test.

FALSE. A simple blood test can reveal whether or not you test positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2. It’s worth noting that one US laboratory handles BRCA testing, and thus, it can take several weeks to receive the results.

4. Men can get tested for the breast cancer gene.

TRUE. Men can get breast cancer and can also carry the breast cancer gene. If a man tests positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, he has an increased risk of developing breast cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.

5. Insurance companies will cover breast cancer gene testing for all females.

FALSE. The cost of the test ranges from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. (My insurance company covered 90% of the cost of the test, and I still needed to pay $270.) The test is generally recommended for men and women over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

6. If you test positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, you will definitely develop breast cancer.

FALSE. Having the breast cancer gene does not mean that you will get breast cancer. However, testing positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 significantly increases the likelihood that you wil develop brest cancer in your lifetime. According to the National Cancer Institute, 12% of women in the general population will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime as compared to 60% of women with the breast cancer gene mutation.

Women who test positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 also have a 15-40% chance of developing ovarian cancer. The average woman in the general population only has a 1.4% chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

7. The majority of breast cancer patients test positive for the gene mutations.

FALSE. The Mayo Clinic states that, “BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about 5% of breast cancers and about 15% of ovarian cancers.”


So, readers, how did you do?

Next Post: What are the options if you test positive for BRCA-1 or BRCA-2? What’s a previvor?

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