Next Gen Breast Imaging

How much does having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer?

A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Breast cancer: About 12 percent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives. Compare that to a staggering 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation develop breast cancer before age 70.

Ovarian cancer: About 1.3 percent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives. By contrast, 39 percent of women with BRCA1 and 12 to 20 percent of women with the BRCA2 mutation will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer before age 70.

Should you consider genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?

Because harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population, it is suggested that mutation testing of individuals who do not have cancer should be only performed if family history indicates the possible presence of a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Family family history is a strong indicator that the BRAC1 or BRCA2 may be present. If your family history includes any of the following we recommend a serious discussion with your primary physician to see if other testing, beyond that of normal breast cancer screening, may be in order.

When your family history indicates the presence of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, it may be best to first test a family member who has cancer, if that person is still alive and willing to be tested. If that person is found to have a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, then other family members may want to consider genetic counseling to learn more about their potential risks and whether genetic testing for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 might be appropriate for them.

It is not recommend that children, even those with a family history suggestive of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, undergo genetic testing. After children with a family history indicating a possible BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation become adults, genetic counseling about whether or not to undergoing genetic testing may be in order.