What are the benefits and limitations of genetic testing for a BRCA mutation?
The benefits of genetic testing can vary depending on individual circumstances. Knowing your BRCA genetic status can be very empowering. Should you test positive for a known mutation, genetic testing can allow you to choose medical options to lower your risk for cancer or detect the disease at an early stage. It may also qualify you to participate in research studies that are looking for better ways to detect cancer early or to prevent cancer. However, not everyone views the knowledge of cancer risk as a benefit. The limitations of the test are complex. Genetic testing impacts both the individual undergoing testing and other members of the family. Some people may find the information and uncertainty associated with risk overwhelming, especially at first. And since the test itself can only identify the two most common genes involved in hereditary breast cancer, under certain circumstances, a negative test may not rule out hereditary breast cancer in your family. Because not every person who carries a mutation will get cancer, it is very important to remember that genetic testing cannot detect breast cancer nor can it tell you with certainty if you will get breast cancer at some point in your life.