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. Other consequences surrounding genetic testing include 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 — for example, you have a genetic variation, but one that hasn't been associated with cancer in other people — you may experience:
- "Survivor guilt" if your family has a known gene mutation that may affect your loved ones (if you receive a negative result)
- Uncertainty and concern that your result may not be a true negative result (if your results show you have a gene variant of uncertain significance)
Your genetic counselor can help you work through your feelings and provide you and your family support throughout this process.
Sept. 01, 2016
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- Peshkin BN, et al. BRCA1 and BRCA2-associated hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2016.
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- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 20, 2016.
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- Genetic/familial high-risk assessment: Breast and ovarian. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed July 20, 2016.
BRCA gene test for breast and ovarian cancer risk