What is BRCA?

The first time I heard about the BRCA cancer gene it was a news story on TV about Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t believe she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy, it was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone doing such a thing.

Soon after I read this story that Angelina published in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice.html?_r=0

jolie_video_covestack.jpg

Little did I realize that my own BRCA cancer odds were so similar to Angelina’s.

It took me some time to get testing approved and completed through Genetics NZ – which I spoke about on One News and TV3 Story. Eventually in January this year I was confirmed to carry the BRCA2 gene.

http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/story/finding-out-your-cancer-risk-a-hard-fought-battle-2016021119

One of the first websites I checked out was ‘The Gift Of Knowledge’, run by Nicola, a kiwi woman who carries the BRCA gene. There is plenty of information here about BRCA and support networks available  http://www.thegiftofknowledge.co.nz

“Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is caused by mutations in two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes were discovered in 1994-1995 (the acronym BRCA comes from BReast CAncer one or BReast CAncer two). Normally these genes act like brakes that help stop abnormal cell growth in the breasts and ovaries. However errors (called mutations) can occur in these BRCA genes, and if a woman has inherited a mutation in one of these genes she has a high chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. Women who carry a mutation in one of these genes may have a 50-85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and a 20-40% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. About 1 in every 400 people in our population carries a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, and less than 5% of all breast and ovarian cancers can be explained by a BRCA mutation.”<The Gift Of Knowledge>

Also helpful was good old Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRCA1

Something I didn’t initially understand is that the BRCA gene can be passed from father to daughter. I had suspected I might have BRCA gene on my mothers side of the family, but it was actually passed to me from my father. Similarly I did not realize that men could develop  Breast Cancer. Last year my uncle (my father’s brother) had his breast removed due to Breast Cancer and was eventually confirmed to have the family BRCA2 gene.

Here is a recent story in the Washington post that relates to male BRCA gene Breast Cancer  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/15/why-more-men-should-be-tested-for-breast-cancer-gene-mutations/

Angelina Jolie eventually went on to have her ovaries removed to reduce her chance of Ovarian Cancer. Identifying Ovarian Cancer is very difficult and it is often recommended to BRCA carriers to have their ovaries removed by age 40.

I also found some good information on this site about what to look for if you think your family might carry the BRCA gene.

http://thebreastcentre.co.nz/breast-cancer/genetic-testing.aspx

I hope this info has been helpful, please let me know if you have any feedback or other links you’d like to post.

 

 

 

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