What do I do if I test positive for BRCA gene?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and have tested positive for either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, your oncologist now has vital information which can be used to more aggressively treat your cancer. For example, chemotherapy will be more effective than hormone therapy in treating breast cancer in women who have the BRCA1 mutation.

The identification of these genes in the mid 1990’s revolutionized the field of cancer prevention and treatment. Statistically, there is a 3 to 7 times greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in women who test positive for this gene mutation. There is also a link to an increased risk of ovarian and some other cancers.

Being aware that you have tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation allows you to be more diligent in monitoring your health. Along with your physician, you can decide on the frequency and methods of screening that you will be following going forward as well as any preventive drug therapy that could be beneficial.

Your doctor can help you understand all of your options for prevention based on your particular diagnosis and your personal goals. Preventative surgery and drug therapy have been proven to remove much of the risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. However these decisions come at a cost. In younger women who have not had an opportunity to have children, or who wish to have more, removal of the ovaries is a serious decision that must be weighed against the risk of developing a future cancer.

If you’re wondering “what do I do if I test positive for BRCA gene?”, know that help is out there. Genetic counselors are also available to help people sort through the emotional impact of knowing that one is a carrier of this gene mutation. There are familial and emotional issues that can arise from this knowledge, but overall, knowing that there is a greater risk of developing cancer, allows the formation of the best possible strategy to live a cancer-free life.


 

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