Get Updates

No one should face hereditary cancer alone.

Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.

Understanding BRCA & HBOC > Hereditary Cancer > Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

| More

BRCA & HBOC
Toggle Menu

Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

Positive test results

A woman who tests positive for a mutation in BRCA1/2 or another gene associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer has an increased lifetime risk for breast and ovarian cancer and certain other cancers compared to women in the general population.  Even with a gene mutation, a woman's risk for cancer is not 100%; it is possible to have a genetic mutation associated with increased cancer risk and never develop cancer. 

A positive genetic test may affect treatment options for women diagnosed with cancer, and can affect screening, and risk-reduction options for women who have not had cancer.  It is important to have a health care team that is experienced in managing hereditary cancer risk.  For more information visit our section on risk management options.

A man who tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation may be at higher risk for male breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers compared to men in the general population. Mutations in other genes may carry other cancer risks.  However, it is possible for a man to have a mutation associated with increased cancer risk and never develop cancer.  It is important for a man who tests positive for a mutation to have a health care team that is experienced in monitoring men with mutations associated with hereditary cancer.

A positive test in either a man or woman means that other relatives may also have inherited the same mutation.  Gene mutations associated with hereditary cancer can be passed on from the father or mother to sons or daughters. There is a 50% chance that a parent will pass on a mutation to each of their children. It is important to discuss with a specialist in cancer genetics who in the family may be at risk, and who should be informed of genetic test results. For more information visit our page on sharing family medical information.

People with mutations may be eligible for research studies to help prevent, detect, or treat hereditary cancer. For more information visit our page on research studies.

Updated 12/30/16

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered