How do I know if I have a BRCA gene fault in my family?
Many families carrying a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have female relatives affected by breast cancer before the age of 50, or who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. If there have been no cases of breast or ovarian cancer in either side of your family, it is less likely that you carry one of these gene faults.
However, in some families the gene fault has been carried by men, so it isn’t obvious, but BRCA gene faults carried by men can still be passed on to their daughters.
If you have one or more cases of breast or ovarian cancer in your family, then your family may carry a faulty copy of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. There are other factors that increases the likelihood that a gene fault has caused these cancers, including early age at diagnosis, an individual getting both breast and ovarian cancer, or a male getting breast cancer.
However it is important to remember that most cancers are not associated with such a faulty gene, but occur for other reasons.
The problem for many Jewish families is that they do not know their history due to the impact of the Holocaust, or because they have lost contact with relatives who have migrated throughout the world.
The only way to know for certain is by genetic testing.
Genetic testing has been available through public hospitals for Jewish families with a history of breast or ovarian cancer for 20 years. This new program offers online BRCA genetic testing to anyone of Jewish ancestry, even if they do not know of any relative with breast or ovarian cancer. Because online genetic testing is a new development, it is first being offered through a research study.