There's no medical risk associated with being tested for a BRCA gene mutation other than the slight risks — including lightheadedness, bleeding or bruising — of having your blood drawn. Risks are associated with the emotional, financial, medical and social implications of your test results.
If you test positive for a BRCA gene mutation, you may face:
- Feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness or depression
- Concerns over possible insurance discrimination
- Strained family relationships over learning of a familial genetic mutation
- Difficult decisions about preventive measures that have long-term consequences
- Feelings of "inevitability" that you'll get cancer
On the other hand, if you test negative for a BRCA mutation or your results aren't clear-cut — say you have a genetic mutation, but one that hasn't been associated with cancer in other people — you may experience:
June 18, 2015
- Uncertainty and concern that your result may not be a true negative result
- "Survivor guilt" if your family has a known gene mutation that may affect your loved ones
- BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer risk and genetic testing. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA. Accessed June 3, 2013.
- Isaacs C, et al. Genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2013.
- Lindor NM, et al. A review of a multifactorial probability-based model for classification of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants of uncertain significance (VUS). Human Mutation. 2012;33:8.
- Kurion AW, et al. Breast cancer risk for noncarriers of family-specific BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations: Findings from the breast cancer family registry. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2011;29:4505.
- Pruthi S, et al. Identification and management of women with BRCA mutations or hereditary predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:1111.
- Mackay J, et al. Genetic counseling for hereditary predisposition to ovarian and breast cancer. Annals of Oncology. 2010;21:vii 334.
- Raby BA, et al. Genetic counseling and testing. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2013.
- Isaacs C, et al. Management of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome and patients with BRCA mutations. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2013.
- Kurian AW,et al. Survival analysis of cancer risk reduction strategies for BRCA1/2 mutation carriers, Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2010;28:222.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2015.