Women's Health Texas – Austin

BRCA Testing

Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer may benefit from BRCA testing

27121131_mlAccording to the American Cancer Society, about 5% to 10% of breast and ovarian cancer cases are hereditary, linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. BRCA testing, or breast cancer genetic testing, empowers you to reduce your breast cancer risk.

Normally, these genes help prevent cancer by acting as tumor suppressors. They actually make proteins that prevent cells from multiplying abnormally. However, if you have a genetic mutation, inherited from one or both of your parents, the genes don’t work as effectively, putting you at increased risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health:

  • About 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives; however, according to the most recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women with a BRCA1 mutation, and approximately 45% of women with a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.¹
  • About 1.4 percent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives; however, according to the most recent estimates, 39 percent of women who have a BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent of women with the BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by age 70.¹

BRCA testing has made it possible for our Austin OBGYNs to identify women who are at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer, and enables us to monitor them more closely and catch cancer in its early stages or prevent it altogether.

Who should have BRCA testing?

Our Austin OBGYNs give patients a detailed questionnaire about their family background to help determine if they are at risk.

The most high-risk group is women who have first- and second-degree relatives under the age of 45 at the time of their initial diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer. A first-degree relative is a parent, sibling or child, while a second-degree relative is a grandparent, aunt, uncle, nephew or niece, or half-sibling.

Risk factors we look for in your family history include:

  • Premenopausal breast cancer or ovarian cancer in close relatives
  • Breast cancer that occurs at a young age in two or more first-degree relatives
  • A family member who has had breast cancer in both breasts
  • A family member who has had both ovarian and breast cancer
  • Two or more relatives who have had ovarian cancer
  • A male relative who has had breast cancer
  • A relative who has been identified as having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation
  • Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish heritage

In addition, we look at personal risk factors, including if you have:

  • Had breast cancer that was diagnosed at a premenopausal age
  • Had breast cancer in both breasts (called bilateral breast cancer)
  • Had both breast and ovarian cancers
  • Had ovarian cancer

What is involved with breast cancer genetic testing?

BRCA testing involves a simple blood test that analyzes your DNA to determine if you have inherited a genetic mutation in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

If the results are positive, our Austin OBGYNs can actually calculate what your lifetime risk is of breast or ovarian cancer. There are different options available, including more intensive monitoring and screening, or prophylactic preventative removal of the ovaries or breasts.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for a BRCA1 or 2 genetic mutation, consider visiting the caring and compassionate Austin OBGYNs at Women’s Health Texas. Contact us at our North Austin, Bastrop or Cedar Park offices for an appointment.


¹ http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA