Should I Get Tested if I am at Risk for Having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation?

If you are found to be at higher risk of carrying either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, genetic testing may be offered to you.

You should know the benefits, risks and limitations of testing before deciding whether or not to get tested. Genetic counseling can help you make the decision that is right for you.

Some Benefits:

  • Testing may clarify your risk for certain cancers
  • Testing may relieve the stress of not knowing if you are at higher risk
  • Testing may help you focus on the medical and lifestyle choices that are available to reduce your risk
  • Testing may help inform other family members about their potential risk
  • Testing may show that you are not at increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer so you can follow general population recommendations for screening

Some Risks:

  • Testing may cause you to experience stress
  • Testing positive may cause you to feel guilt or fear over possibly passing a mutation to children
  • A person with a negative test result may forgo important screening opportunities because she thinks she is not at risk
  • Family relationships may be affected by testing or test results
  • Although very rare, you may face employment or insurance discrimination due to a positive test result


  • The results do not come with simple "yes" or "no" answers. To be understood, the results should be reviewed carefully with the doctor or genetic counselor
  • A positive test will not tell you if or when breast and/or ovarian cancer will happen
  • Some results are inconclusive because of limitations in our knowledge

A doctor or genetic counselor will discuss all of this information in detail and give you a list of questions you can think about in making your decision.

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