Like many cancers, breast cancer is proving to have a strong genetic component — meaning family genetic history may in some cases provide an indication of a woman's likelihood of developing certain forms of breast cancer. The availability of laboratory tests to detect cancer genes provides information that can help you make decisions about your health.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 Analysis
Two specific genes known as BRCA1 (breast cancer 1, early onset) and BRCA2 (breast cancer 2, early onset) play an important role in preventing breast and ovarian cancers. Normally, they act as brakes that help stop abnormal cell growth. Alterations and mutations can occur in these BRCA genes, however. When this happens, the genes do not work as they should, and there is a loss of control over cell growth. Some cells start to grow abnormally fast, and cancer may develop.
New technologies are making it possible to test for these mutations before any cancer develops. Genetic characterization is conducted through a blood test that can detect changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2. Analysis of the genes is not like a mammogram or other screening test intended for the general population. Instead, it is specifically used with individuals thought to be at high risk for breast or ovarian cancer — due to family history or because they developed breast cancer before the age of 50 or ovarian cancer at any age.
BRCA tests are not preventive, but some people — particularly those with strong family histories of breast, ovarian and other cancers — find they help them to understand and assess risks, and make future health care choices.
To make an appointment to discuss genetic testing with a counselor at the Houston Methodist, click her or call 713.441.8571.
Houston Methodist provides diagnostic testing at the following convenient locations: