Risks

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
References
  1. BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer risk and genetic testing. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  2. Peshkin BN, et al. Genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  3. AskMayoExpert. Genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
  4. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Risk assessment, genetic counseling, and genetic testing for BRCA-related cancer in women: Recommendation statement. American Family Physician. 2015;91:118A.
  5. Peshkin BN, et al. BRCA1 and BRCA2-associated hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  6. Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Genetic factors: Hereditary cancer predisposition syndromes. In: Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  7. Raby BA, et al. Genetic counseling and testing. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  8. Isaacs C, et al. Management of patients at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2016.
  9. Stan DL, et al. Challenging and complex decisions in the management of the BRCA mutation carrier. Journal of Women's Health. 2013;22:825.
  10. Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 20, 2016.
  11. Brendish KH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz. July 20, 2016.
  12. 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