Breast Cancer Gene Mutations

The Incidence of Breast Cancer in the United States

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Website reports that the incidence of breast cancer in women from 2002 to 2006 (the last years for which data has been compiled) is 123.8 per 100,000 women. While many women who are stricken with breast cancer may have no known relatives with the disease, many more will find that they have a genetic predisposition, specifically BRCA Gene Mutations, that put them at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 Gene Mutations

According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, these genetic mutations, called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, make affected women have a 56-87% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. They are three to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than women without the genetic mutations. Additionally, while 2% of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer, women who carry the BRCA genes are 27-44% likely to develop ovarian cancer. Both women and men who have the BRCA genes are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Who Should Be Tested?

People who should be tested for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic mutations are people with:

  • Breast cancer before age 50
  • Ovarian cancer at any age
  • Male breast cancer at any age
  • Multiple primary cancers
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Relatives of BRCA mutation carriers

The initial test is expensive for the affected individual, about $3200. Currently it varies whether or not a person’s insurance will cover the screening. But once the type of genetic mutation is known, target testing for that particular mutation in the other family members is much easier and much less expensive. It must be noted that  sometimes a family may have all the indicators of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer yet test negative for the known BRCA gene mutations.

How to get Tested

The BRACAnalysis® test can only be ordered by qualified health care providers. The most important thing you can do if you suspect that you may have a genetic predisposition to cancer is to speak with qualified health care providers with whom you feel comfortable and who can help you assess your risk and order genetic testing if needed. There are healthcare providers nationwide who can help you know your risk and determine whether genetic testing is right for you.

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