In 2013, the movie star Angelina Jolie made headlines when she announced she’d undergone a pre-emptive double mastectomy. She’d discovered she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which dramatically increases the risk a woman will develop breast cancer over her lifetime.
Around 72% of women with a BRCA1 mutation, and 69% of women with a BRCA2 mutation, will develop breast cancer by the age of 80, compared to 12% of the general population. They are also more susceptible to ovarian cancer. In men, the same faulty genes can lead to an increased risk of male breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Following Jolie’s disclosure, there was an uptick in women seeking genetic testing. Although only a small proportion of breast cancer patients harbour a faulty BRCA gene, the mutation can have serious consequences for affected families.
This means, for many women with a family history of breast cancer, genetic testing can serve an important purpose. Either it will assuage their concerns – or it will inform their choices about what to do next.
Read the rest of this article at Patient