As many of you have read, Angelina Jolie recently underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy following a positive test for the BRCA 1 gene. Her public announcement almost single-handedly brought global awareness to the BRCA 1 gene and opened a dialogue among women and their physicians regarding their own breast health. Our practice has received numerous inquiries on the subject – and understandably so. To better understand the BRCA 1 gene, its risks and treatment options, we’re covering the basics for you.
- What exactly is the BRCA 1 gene? The BRCA 1 gene belongs to a class of genes called ‘tumor suppressors’. It’s the mutation of this gene that is linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers in women (and even breast cancer in men). When a woman inherits a harmful mutation of the BRCA 1 gene, her risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer increase significantly. In fact, the risk for breast cancer can be as great as 87% and 50% for ovarian cancer. Men and women who have harmful mutations of the gene are also at risk for other types of cancers.
- How do I know if I should get tested? Though there are no standard criteria currently for recommending a person have BRCA 1 testing. While women who have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer are likely to be inclined to have the testing done, anyone can request the test.
- What is involved in testing for BRCA 1? It is a simple blood test that can be performed in our Dallas office. We take a sample of blood which is then analyzed by a combination of methods. In most cases, the results can be obtained in a few weeks following the blood test. Often, we will refer our patients for genetic counseling both before and after the BRCA 1 testing. A genetic counselor will perform a risk assessment based on personal and family medical history and discuss various topics such as the psychological risks and benefits of genetic testing, as well as the potential to pass a mutation to children.
If you or a loved one has thought about BRCA 1 testing or has questions, Dr. Brady can meet with you personally and discuss the best path to take based on the information you provide. We’ll provide you with the tools and information you need to make educated and smart decisions about your health. We want to see all our patients healthy, happy and thriving!