BRCA mutations are genetic abnormalities associated with an increased risk of cancer, especially breast and ovarian cancers. Although the idea of genetic testing can be intimidating, there are several reasons to considering having the test.
Awareness Of Increased Cancer Risk
The increased risk of cancer is not only limited to women, men can also have mutations of the BRCA gene. BRCA mutations are strongly associated with an increase in your lifetime risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. To a lesser extent, BRCA mutations are also associated with some forms of lung cancer and lymphoma. If you have the BRCA mutation, you would need to notify your doctor so you can schedule different screening protocols. Anyone at an elevated risk of breast or prostate cancer would need to have screenings at an earlier age. For ovarian cancer, your gynecologist might want more in-depth screenings beyond a pelvic exam at regular intervals if you have the BRCA mutation. Additionally, if you test positive, you might encourage other family members to be tested.
Family Planning Considerations
Having the BRCA mutation can also mean the genetic mutation was passed through generations and your children may be at risk for the same mutation. If you do not have children, knowing whether or not you have the mutation might influence your decision to have children or use alternative methods of conceiving a child to avoid genetic mutations. For those people who test positive, they might decide to stop having children and utilize a permanent form of birth control. Even with the BRCA mutation, you might decide you want children that are biologically your own. With an elevated cancer risk, it may be worth considering sperm or egg harvesting if you plan to start a family many years into the future. If cancer were to occur, harvesting your gametes would be necessary to avoid the damaging effects of treatments on your eggs or sperm.
Having a positive BRCA test will encourage you to consider any prophylactic options available, especially for women. Although some people feel prophylactic surgery is excessive since having the BRCA mutation does not guarantee you will develop cancer, having your ovaries and/or breasts removed can be a weight off your shoulders. For women who choose to have prophylactic procedures, the benefits are numerous. A major benefit is reduced screenings for breast cancer. There is always the concern that having too many mammograms could potentially increase the risk of breast cancer since mammography involves radiation.
Additionally, having a major surgery, such as removal of the ovaries or removal and reconstruction of the breasts, is much easier when you are healthy. The possibility of waiting to have these organs removed once cancer has developed can leave some women in a position of fighting cancer and trying to recover from a major operation simultaneously.
Having the BRCA test can make you feel like you are waiting for your fate to be decided. Regardless of the outcome, it is often better to know whether you have the mutation so you make decisions to address these concerns. Contact a company, like Gray Foundation, for more help.