Question of the Day: Should All Women Be Tested for BRCA Mutations?

Question of the Day: Should All Women Be Tested for BRCA Mutations?

Is genetic testing for breast cancer for everyone? The truthful answer is we don’t know – at least not yet. But some of the brightest minds in science are stepping up to start the conversation.  


Remember the BRCA mutations? Mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2  genes carry a high risk for breast and ovarian cancers. However, a mutation in the genes does not mean cancer is a certainty. Additionally, they are only one component of the genetics of breast cancer. Deciding how to manage future risk once a mutation is detected is a deeply personal choice.  


This is why organizations like Bright Pink exist and where genetic counselors can be invaluable – to help young women who test positive find their own way to deal with the risks.  


In the past, we’ve noted the debate on if and when to get tested for a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation. Dr. Mary Claire King (instrumental in discovering the mutation) is now recommending that all women over 30 should be tested. She has laid out her reasonings and the research behind them in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. While only a small percentage of women will test positive, relying on family history alone will miss women with the genetic mutations and elevated risks.  


An important discussion has been prompted. Concerns for costs of screening all women, the low percentage of women affected, and the presence of other genetic markers all compound the issue.  It will take more research and more time before there is conclusive evidence to guide us. For now, we patiently await that further science to conclude what’s best for women.





Originally published 9/9/14 on