What’s the difference between BRCA testing and carrier screening?

BRCA testing uses DNA analysis to identify mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that put individuals at an increased risk for developing cancer, including breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers. BRCA testing is not part of carrier screening panels. Carrier screening uses DNA analysis to test for recessive conditions that can help identify couples who may be at risk for having a child with a genetic condition. Remember, if someone is found to be a carrier of a recessive condition, it does not mean that the person who was tested will develop the disease, but rather, being a carrier will increase the risk of having a child with that disease if the partner has a mutation in the same gene. 

     In contrast, when one tests positive for a BRCA mutation, they “carry” the mutation and this causes an increased risk for breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers. The good news is that there are lifesaving interventions available for those that are BRCA positive to significantly reduce cancer risk through heightened surveillance and/or prevention. An estimated 90 percent of BRCA carriers do not know they are BRCA positive.

The good news is that there are lifesaving interventions available for those that are BRCA positive to significantly reduce cancer risk.

     Until recently, BRCA testing has largely been limited to individuals with a family history of cancer. A new research initiative, the BFOR (BRCA Founder OutReach) Study, is seeking to increase access to testing. The pilot phase study offers free BRCA testing to women and men of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry, age 25 or older who live in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, or Philadelphia through an online platform. Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a 10x higher frequency of BRCA mutations than the general population and experts believe that broader BRCA testing in this group will be extremely impactful in preventing hereditary cancers and saving lives.

If you feel you meet the criteria for the study, visit www.bforstudy.com to find out how you can participate in the BFOR study and receive BRCA testing at no cost.

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