Who should be tested?
The BRCA mutation greatly increases a woman’s risk of breast or ovarian cancer. Depending on individual and family factors, women with the mutation have a 40-90 per cent chance of developing breast cancer. Angelina Jolie was reportedly told her BRCA1 mutation gave her an 87 per cent chance. Ask your GP about a referral for genetic testing if you were diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 (or triple negative breast cancer under 50, or lobular breast cancer at any age). If you haven’t had breast cancer, you qualify for referral if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer involving at least two first or second degree relatives on the same side of the family, plus an additional factor such as more than two relatives diagnosed, a relative diagnosed under 50, male breast cancer, more than one breast or ovarian cancer in the same woman, or if you have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Or contact your regional branch of Genetic Health Service NZ – see genetichealthservice.org.nz . If you have the mutation, you may pass it on to your sons and daughters even if you don’t develop cancer yourself. However, the test can’t predict whether you will actually go on to develop cancer.