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BRCA Testing For Hereditary Breast And Ovarian Cancer


What is Hereditary or Familial Cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells in your body start to grow out of control. These cancer cells can multiply very quickly, cause growth or tumors, invade surrounding tissues, and even spread. (metastasize) to other areas of the body.

Cancer is a complex disease that can be caused by several different factors. A few types of cancer run in families and this is called Hereditary or Familial Cancer. Hereditary cancers have been linked to changes in genes, this is referred to as mutations that can be passed from parents to their children.

All genes come in pairs, and your cells need both copies to work normally. One copy of each gene is inherited from your Mother, and the other copy from your Father. When you inherit one Gene with a mutation, it increases the risk of you having to develop that cancer, but it does not necessarily mean that you will develop Cancer. The other copy of a Gene without the mutation can keep your cells from growing out of control. But when the normal copy of the Gene is damaged by other factors such as: chemicals, radiation, or smoking, as the risk of developing cancer increases further. Many of the factors that can damage these Genes are still unknown.

What are Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer Syndrome?

Hereditary breast and Ovarian cancer syndrome are a type of Familial Cancer and is linked to mutations in two Genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known as “Tumor Suppressor Genes" since they prevent cells from growing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way.

Thousands of mutations have been found in these genes, but only some have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Inheriting one of these mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 increases your risk of developing Breast, Ovarian and certain other types of Cancer. Not all cases of breast or ovarian cancer are associated with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. In fact, only 5 - 10% of Breast cancer cases and 10 - 15% of Ovarian cancer cases are due to mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

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