We hear a lot about genes and genetics when it comes to cancer, but only 5-10% of breast cancer cases are genetically linked.  What does this mean for people who have or are at risk for breast cancer? Read on to find out more. 

What is the Link between Genetics and Breast Cancer?

Genetically linked breast cancer occurs when a person inherits a mutation that increases the likelihood they will get cancer. Fast facts about genetics and breast cancer include:

  • Genetic mutations for breast cancer can occur in men and women
  • The genes most often leading to breast cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2, though there are other genes that may cause breast cancer
  • Certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk for carrying a BRCA mutation Approximately 1 in 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation
  • BRCA mutations are associated with other types of cancers, including ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer
  • Having a genetic mutation can increase the chance of getting cancer but not all individuals with the genetic mutation will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime

Who Should Get Tested?

Individuals at an increased risk for having a genetic mutation. These include:

  • A personal history of cancer such as breast or ovarian cancer
  • A family member with a known BRCA 1 or 2 mutation
  • A history of breast cancer in two or more blood relatives at a young age

How Do I Get Tested?

Testing typically takes place at your doctors’ office and is done by a quick blood or saliva sample. The sample is sent to a lab for analysis and can take several weeks to get the test results back.

There are direct to consumer or home tests that are available but they should never substitute the advice of a healthcare provider.

What if I test positive for BRCA1/BRCA2 Gene Mutation?

  • Remember, that testing positive for a genetic mutation does not mean you have or that you will definitely get cancer.
  • Always discuss your results with a healthcare team. Find out if additional testing is needed and discuss next steps for screening such as annual mammograms
  • Speak with a genetic counselor who can help understand your results and what this will mean for you and other family members. For a referral:


Previvor is a term that applies to individuals with an identified genetic mutation that creates an increased risk for the occurrence of cancer

  • Previvors may consider surgery or other treatment to remove or reduce their risk of cancer occurrence

If you believe you’re at risk for or have a confirmed BRCA mutation there are many resources to support you to stay healthy and monitor for cancer. The Pack Health team is here to support you to identify your risk, get access to screening and other resources, and to live your healthiest life.


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