Unlike a mammogram or Pap smear, the BRCA test is not required for all women. A healthcare provider or genetic counselor can help a woman decide if the test is appropriate. Some reasons a woman may want to consider getting the test done can include a family history of breast cancer in 2 or more close relatives, a personal history of ovarian cancer, or having a family member with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
2. A positive result does not guarantee cancer
Women who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation may feel overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or scared. While the presence of a genetic mutation puts a woman at higher risk for breast cancer, the gene alone does not guarantee that a woman will get cancer. Women who receive positive results may consider taking extra cancer prevention steps, including more frequent mammograms, taking birth control, or undergoing preventive surgery such as a mastectomy.
3. Genetic testing may be considered a preventive service
Women who want the test may feel concern regarding insurance coverage. However, the Affordable Care Act states that BRCA testing is a covered preventive service for women who have not been diagnosed with BRCA-related cancer and who meet testing recommendations. Some places may offer genetic testing for women of high risk without insurance at no charge. Women should consult with the insurance company and healthcare provider regarding coverage of the test.
4. The test is simple
While the decision to get a BRCA genetic test may be emotional, the actual test is simple. During the visit, a clinician will take a small blood sample from the patient’s arm. This usually takes less than 5 minutes. No special preparation is needed before the test. Typically, there are no special physical recovery considerations either, besides some possible light bruising or slight discomfort at the site where blood was drawn.
5. For the right patient, the test offers significant benefits
While the BRCA test is not appropriate for everyone, some patients feel significant relief after the test. High-risk patients can feel anxious or uncertain, and simply knowing whether the result is positive or negative can provide some clarity and emotional relief. Even a positive test result may bring some relief and feelings of confidence in taking extra cancer prevention measures.
Speak with your OB/GYN
Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the US. Breast cancer prevention through measures such as the BRCA genetic test can help many women decrease risk. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out who may be a good candidate for genetic testing.