Getting tested for the BRCA genes is a personal choice that only you can make for yourself. If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, your risk of carrying one of the BRCA genes is 1 in 40, about ten times the rate in the general population.
People are sometimes afraid to learn whether they carry one of the BRCA genes or not. While learning that you carry a BRCA gene initially can be an emotionally distressing experience, most people eventually adjust to learning their carrier status and do not see significant changes in their anxiety levels over the long term.
It is always important to remember that learning you carry a BRCA does not mean you will get cancer. Learning your carrier status simply offers you the opportunity to do whatever you can to prevent cancer or treat it appropriately, should you develop it.
Some benefits of testing for the BRCA genes are:
- A sense of relief from uncertainty
- Reducing the risk of cancer by taking preventative efforts, if you have a positive result
- In-depth knowledge about your cancer risk
- Information to help make informed medical and lifestyle decisions
- The opportunity to help educate other family members about potential risk
- Earlier cancer detection, which increases the chance of successful treatment
Some drawbacks of testing for the BRCA genes are:
- Testing may initially increase anxiety and stress for some people
- Testing does not eliminate the risk of cancer
- Results in some cases may return inconclusive or uncertain
- There may be consequences for extended health coverage for insurance, despite Canada’s genetic non-discrimination laws
- Private testing can sometimes be expensive, if you don’t qualify for publicly-funded testing in BC. We at BRCAinBC want to ensure that anyone who wants to get tested is able to, through our Genetic Testing Bursary program.