If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer— ovarian or other types of cancer—it might be the result of an inherited abnormal BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 gene. The only way to find out for sure? Genetic testing.
The results are most meaningful when the first person tested is the family member who has already been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. Why? Because even if an abnormal gene linked to higher cancer risk is present in your family, not every person in the family will have inherited it. Family members who test positive for the abnormal gene should consider themselves at higher risk. On the flip side, those who test negative can view their risk as similar to that of people in the general population.
If or when a relative has been found to have an abnormal BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 gene, here’s how to proceed:
• For example, if your mother’s sister (your aunt) has the abnormal gene, the next person to be tested should be your mother. If her test is negative, then you don’t need to be tested because she could not have passed on the mutation to you. If your mother’s test is positive, then you might want to consider genetic testing.
• If you test positive for an abnormal gene, your mother, siblings and/or adult children should potentially get tested. Family members can only pass on the mutation if they are positive for it—the abnormal gene doesn’t skip generations.