What is BRCA Genetic Testing like? and Should you get tested?

Since my mom was diagnosed and died from Breast Cancer (5/16), I am determined to proactive about my health. I asked my doctor for a referral to OHSU genetic counseling. I find it interesting that my doctor at the time did not recommend it herself. Both of my parents have had cancer and I am of Jewish of Ashkenazi decent.

I found myself this morning at OHSU’s health and healing building on the 7th floor. This is the floor I was on with my mother so many times just before she died. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to be there. There was a familiar feeling of driving there and parking

I did not know what to expect. When you go in, they go over your family history and talk about how our DNA works.  After that we talked about my percentage of getting cancer depending on if I have the gene mutation or not. When my mother was diagnosed, she was tested and did not have the gene. Most women who get breast cancer do not have the gene even though the gene increases your chance for getting it. If I don’t have the gene my chances are 10%, if I have the gene from my father, my chances are 60%. The doctor and genetic counselor thought I should do the blood work and I did.

I haven’t gotten my results yet but depending on how they come back I may have to make some future health plans. If I have the gene mutation I will be talking with the doctor on if or when I will have my breasts and ovaries removed. I found it interesting that it is illegal for health insurance companies to not give you coverage based on having the genetic mutation but life insurance is not governed by that rule. So if your thinking of having the test, you should make sure your life insurance is at the amount you want. I also find this interesting because the mutation is only associated with 30% of all breast cancer diagnoses. So it isn’t a 100% guarantee of cancer.

If you have not had cancer but are concerned about the BRCA mutation. You should talk to a genetic doctor/counselor if you have one of these:

  • A close relative (mother, sister, aunt) that was diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer.
  • If any of your close relatives have the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation
  • If you are part of a high risk community, such as, Ashkenazi Jewish decent or Sephardic Jewish decent.

If you have one or more of these, please talk to your primary doctor for a referral. I am not a doctor but hope this will remind people to have the discussion with family and/or their doctor. Remember to regular check your breasts.

For more information please visit Mayo Clinic

4 thoughts on “What is BRCA Genetic Testing like? and Should you get tested?

Add yours

  1. I’ve talked with doctors several times about whether I should get tested for the BRCA genes. I haven’t yet been tested, though. I had felt more confident about testing and less worried about the risks when Obama was in office. With what Trump and the Republicans are wanting to do with health care, though, I can’t say I’d get tested—as a personal choice.

    I hope you get good results. And I applaud you for taking your health into your own hands. Knowledge is power.

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    1. I agree, it’s a personal choice and our current administration worries me as well. Knowing this information comes with it’s own set of luggage. As i reflect on why i want to do this testing, i realize it’s too feel some control. I really just want a cure for all cancers and good health for all.

      Like

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