BRCA testing is considered when there’s a chance that a patient might have inherited damaged BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. Due to these damaged genes, mutations are created which doesn’t let them do their job of repairing or maintaining the DNA.
Due to the mutations caused by these damaged genes, the human body faces an increased risk of facing breast or ovarian cancer.
BRCA testing is usually done after a genetic counselling session where personal or family history is analysed to understand cancer risk.
The ideal candidate to be tested is the one with breast or ovarian cancer, so all other family members don’t have to get tested.
BRCA Testing Risks:
There are no medical-related risks of BRCA mutation testing apart from bruising, lightheadedness, or bleeding because your blood is drawn.
If you test positive for the BRCA mutation, you might suffer from the following:
- Intense feelings of anxiety, anger, or depression.
- Concerns regarding your insurance plans or discrimination.
- Your family relations may suffer due to finding out about mutation inheritance.
- Decision-making regarding follow-up preventive measures.
- Fear due to being prone to cancer.
Preparing for BRCA Testing:
The first thing you’re advised to do is, meet a genetic counsellor to help you determine if this is the proper test for you, the potential risks of the testing process, and the pros and cons of going through with testing.
The counsellor discusses the entire personal and family medical history, analyses your chances of developing cancer, and highlights the risks of undergoing the BRCA test.
Before meeting your genetic counsellor:
- Collect all information regarding your family medical history, especially of the close-knit relatives.
- Gather all your personal history, including all previous records from specialists or any results of previous genetic tests.
- Ensure that you note down all questions you have for the genetic professional.
- Take a close friend or family member who can help you take notes and ask questions.
Taking the BRCA Test is a personal choice; however, prepare yourself for the emotional and social implications that will come along later on after the test results. It’s better to understand that the test results are inconclusive regarding your cancer risks, so be ready to face that feeling of uncertainty. It’s better to go with someone who can help you physically and mentally with the BRCA test.
The test usually involves a doctor or nurse inserting a needle in your arm for the blood test and then it’s sent to the lab for further testing.
In modern clinics, doctors skip the genetic counselling part, ask for the patient’s consent for the spit test, and ship it directly for testing.
It might take a few days before the test results come in; it’s better if you have discussed possibilities with your genetic counsellor, as they can better guide you over further implications and treatment options. BRCA testing is a tiresome process, both physically and mentally; thus a patient should move forward with a strongly prepared mind regarding the testing process and the test results.