I always schedule my mammograms during October, as it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It’s much easier to remember to get one when every network news anchor is passionately reminding me of its importance. But what of the test that helps identify the rare BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers? Consumer Reports looked into the test and lists the top five reasons your doctor may request genetic testing.
First, a little genome history lesson. For most of us, the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes help protect against cancer. Those little genes are tumor suppressing superheroes that work from within. It’s when those genes mutate into bad guys that you face a higher risk of cancer. Women who find they have the harmful BRCA mutations are about five times the normal risk of developing breast cancer.
If your parents, siblings or children share any of the following characteristics, your doctor may recommend you take the genetic test. You’ll likely find yourself taking the test if, someone in your family:
- Was diagnosed with breast cancer at 50 or before
- Received a triple negative breast cancer (estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative) at 60 or before
- Had multiple bouts of breast cancer and/or had cancer in both breasts
- Is of Ashkenazi Jewish background and had breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Had an ovarian cancer diagnosis
By getting tested, you can help other relatives decide if they need to be tested, as they may also have a higher risk. Finding out your test status can also help you decide how to approach other major decisions when it comes to potentially removing cancer threats in your own body—a la Angela Jolie.