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Also Known As: BRACA Test, Genetic Breast Cancer Test, Hereditary Ovarian Cancer Test, Hereditary Breast Cancer Test, BRCA Gene Test, BRCA gene 1, BRCA gene 2, Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene1, Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene 2

What Is A BRCA Panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) Test?

The BRCA panel test shows if you are experiencing inherited mutations or variants in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. The test looks for evident changes known as mutations to reveal if you are at an increased risk of developing certain kinds of cancers, especially ovarian and breast cancer. Acknowledging the presence of harmful mutations can allow you to take the necessary steps to reduce the cancer risk and other complications.

Genes are a part of your DNA passed down from your father and mother. These genes carry all the information that determines your unique traits like eye color and height. Apart from your genetic characteristics, they are also responsible for some health concerns. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes help protect you by producing proteins preventing the formation of tumors in the body. Any mutation in both of these genes can lead to severe cell damage and cancer. Most women with mutated BRCA1 and 2 genes are at an increased risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer

Many men with mutated genes can also develop prostate or breast cancer, but it may not be true for everyone! Other factors might include your environment and an unhealthy lifestyle.

What Is The Test Used For?

Your doctor or health care provider can recommend the BRCA Panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) test to determine if you have gene changes that might increase your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. You are also eligible for the test if anyone in your family has certain health-related concerns or risk factors. For example, if you have one or more family members with ovarian, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer, you will likely receive the same genetic mutations.

The BRCA Panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) test is often used to diagnose:

Breast cancer

It is a type of cancer that can occur in both men and women, but it is far more common in women. 

The sign and symptoms include:

  • Breast lump and thickening
  • Change in shape, size, and appearance of the breasts
  • Changes to the skin over the breast
  • Peeling, scaling, flaking, and crusting of the areolas
  • Newly inverted nipple

Ovarian cancer

This cancer involves the abnormal growth of cells in the ovaries. Some signs of ovarian cancer include:

  • Abdominal swelling and bloating
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Pelvic area discomfort
  • Fatigue and back pain
  • Frequent need to urinate

Prostate cancer

This disease commonly affects older men, especially those over 65. The symptoms of prostate cancer are:

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Ejaculatory problems
  • The urgency to pass urine
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Presence of blood in semen

Why And When Do You Need A BRCA Panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) Test?

This test is not commonly suggested because the gene mutations are quite rare, affecting only 0.2% of the entire population. But your doctor can recommend this test if they think you are at a higher risk of developing the mutation in the future. You are more likely to receive the BRCA panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) test if you:

  • Have a relative already dealing with the BRCA mutation
  • Have or had breast cancer that was diagnosed before the age of 50
  • Have or had both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Have or had breast cancer in both breasts
  • You have one or more family members with ovarian, prostate, or breast cancer
  • You belong to eastern European Jewish ancestry ( patients are quite common in this group as compared to the other population)
  • You are from any part of Europe, including Norway, Iceland, and Denmark
  • Have or had triple-negative breast cancer at the age of 60 or younger
  • Have or had male breast cancer
  • Have or had metastatic prostate cancer
  • Have or had ovarian, fallopian, and primary peritoneal cancer
  • Have or had pancreatic cancer

What Kind Of Sample Is Required For The Test?

For the blood samples, a doctor or lab technician usually takes blood from a vein in your arm. The process usually takes less than 5 minutes, and after the blood is drawn in the sample tube, it is sent to a laboratory for further testing. Alternatively, the provider can ask you for a saliva sample. During this process, you will be required to either spit into a tube or use a cotton ball or pad to absorb your saliva. Once the tube is filled, a preservative is added to ensure that the sample is suitable for further testing.

Do You Need To Prepare For The Test?

No special preparation is needed for a blood sample, and you can also eat or drink as usual. You may be advised to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking at least 30 minutes before the test for a saliva sample.

Are There Any Risks To This Test?

There is very little risk to having a blood or saliva test. During the blood test, you might feel slight pain or bruise at the site where the needle was put in. But, 
most symptoms are mild and usually go away after office hours.

What Do The Test Results Mean?

Most of the BRCA panel (BRCA1, BRCA2) test results are negative, positive, or uncertain. The results will tell you whether a harmful mutation is present or not. Sometimes the test can detect mutations that are not very well understood. Still, the test results could mean the following:

Negative results

The results show that there are no known harmful mutations present in your BRCA1 and 2 genes. It can be interpreted as a true negative if you have a family history of harmful variants and still show negative results. However, if no one in your family has breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer with harmful gene mutations, your negative results will be described as uninformative.

Positive results

The positive results confirm the presence of a gene mutation that is known to be harmful and intense. It will be described as pathogenic or disease-causing on your report, but it does not necessarily mean that you will develop hereditary cancer.

Related Tests: CA-125 Test, Cancer Antigen 19-9 Test, Prostate-Specific Antigen Test, Estrogen Receptor and Progesterone Receptor Test

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