Here’s Who Can Benefit from BRCA Testing

Nov 21, 2023
Here’s Who Can Benefit from BRCA Testing
Breast cancer is a problem for millions of women, but if you have specific genes that can lead to cancer, detecting them early can lead to better chances of survival. Read on to find out more.

A wide variety of cancers are affecting millions worldwide, and breast cancer is among the most common, accounting for 12.5% of new cases of any sort of cancer. An estimated 13% of American women (1 in 8) will develop the illness in their lifetime, and this year, nearly 300,000 cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed. 

Treating this dangerous condition is best accomplished when you detect it early, and for some that may be accomplished using BRCA testing. If you live in the Chicago, Illinois, area, and you suspect you may have breast cancer, our experienced team of doctors at Michigan Avenue Primary Care can help you with screenings to diagnose and determine the best methods of treatment.

To find out more about the people most likely to benefit from screening, let’s examine what breast cancer is, the genetic factors that can lead to it, and how BRCA testing can help.

Understanding breast cancer

Cancer is a mutation (abnormal growth) of cells, and in the case of breast cancer, those cells multiply and spread faster than healthy cells, forming tumorous lumps or masses. This is more common in women than men, though it can happen to either sex, and over time these cells can spread to other parts of your body to cause more damage.

A personal history of breast cancer, family history of the same, age, radiation exposure, obesity, alcohol abuse, and postmenopausal hormone therapy are all risk factors that can increase your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Common symptoms include changes in the size and appearance of your breasts, redness or pitting, lumps in your breasts that feel different from surrounding tissue, and peeling, crusting, or flaking of pigmented skin around your areola (darker skin around your nipples).

Genetic factors that can affect your risk of breast cancer

Among the hereditary factors that can lead to this cancer are the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Everyone has these genes, but families with a history of the gene mutation are at higher risk of not only this form of cancer but also ovarian and prostate cancer. 

Ironically these two genes are normally tumor suppressants when functioning normally, but when the mutated version develops, they can’t repair the DNA that has broken down and mutate further and spread.

How BRCA testing can help

If you have a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer, this test is designed to detect mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 cells that lead to the aforementioned conditions. 

BRCA testing can be performed using blood or saliva, but blood is more common. In men, this test can be used to check for male breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, or Fanconi anemia, a rare inherited bone marrow condition that can lead to blood disorders. 

People of Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with family histories of breast and ovarian cancer should also consider getting tested.

The death rate connected to breast cancer has decreased in recent years, and options like BRCA testing can keep the survival rate on the rise for millions. If you think you have this form of cancer or have a family history of the condition, make an appointment with the team at Michigan Avenue Primary Care today. Call our office or schedule your visit online anytime