Cancer. It’s become a bad word in today’s society, and for a good reason. It causes turmoil, outrageous medical bills, illness, and even death. However, advances in research can help determine if you have specific genes linked to cancer, which can prepare you for your future and your family’s future alike. Yes, you read that right, you can be screened for genetic alterations that can help determine your risk for cancer. The genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are specific genes in the body that produce tumor suppressor proteins and are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. These genes normally protect the body from cancerous cells; however, those with changes or mutations of the gene have much higher chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. When you hear breast cancer you may think it only affects women; but, it can affect both women and men, although it is more likely to affect women. In fact, there are 230,000 new cases of breast cancer in women each year and 2,300 new male cases each year. One in 8 will develop cancer in the United States. Let that fact sink in.
There are many causes and risks for developing cancer, but there is one way to find out your likelihood of developing cancer---your genes. There are many different factors that one should think of when thinking of BRCA genetic testing. Have you had breast cancer, ovarian cancer or fallopian tube cancer or a combination of any of these cancers before? Have you had more than one breast cancer diagnosis or a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis? Are you a male who has or have had breast cancer? Are you of Eastern European Jewish ancestry? Do you have more than one family member on the same side of the family who has had breast, ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer?
If you fall under any of the above criteria, you and your immediate family are at an increased risk for developing cancer. The person with the highest chance of carrying the BRCA positive mutation should be tested first--this is usually the person that has already had cancer before. It is estimated that over 10% of the population carries the BRCA mutation. If you are BRCA positive, your lifetime risk for breast cancer is increased, with 50% of women who test positive developing breast cancer and 39% developing ovarian cancer. Simple math tells you that just because you are positive, does not mean you will develop cancer; however, it is better to know for sure in order to make necessary lifestyle changes to decrease chances of cancer. Additionally, your children and immediate siblings have a 50% chance of carrying the mutation, and other relatives may be carriers as well. That being said, if you test positive, your children and siblings should also be tested at the very least, and they will not know to be tested unless you start the cycle. Furthermore, if you test BRCA negative, you may still be at risk for cancer, especially if you fall in the above criteria.
Take action for your health. For more information on genetic testing, visit mygenetx.com. MyGenetx is a CLIA certified molecular laboratory, providing laboratory results for use by a healthcare provider for diagnosis and patient management. All test requisitions are reviewed by a clinical physician team, led by Dr. Ford Brewer. The tests offered are not available in New York.