What Happens if You Test Positive for BRCA?

What Happens if You Test Positive for BRCA?

Cancer is scary. And if you carry the BRCA 1/2 mutation, it can increase your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer by up to 70%. Although you can’t control every health outcome, you can take charge of your own next steps. What happens if you test positive for BRCA? Here’s what you should know.

What Happens If You Test Positive for BRCA?

Once you learn that you’re positive for BRCA, the gene mutation that increases your risk of developing breast cancer, there are several steps you can take to maintain your health and give you peace of mind.

cancer genetics

A certified genetic counselor is a healthcare provider who specializes in cancer genetics. They can help you understand the full meaning behind your diagnosis and individual risk factors to help you manage your risk of developing breast cancer.

Screening and Surveillance

One of your options for managing your breast cancer risk is to increase your screening and surveillance appointments. Increased screening means cancer will be detected earlier when it is more treatable if you develop breast cancer in the future. Your medical team will help decide what interval to schedule for your individual risk factors.

Risk-reducing Surgeries

A prophylactic mastectomy is another option that allows you to dramatically reduce your risk of developing cancer in the future and avoid the anxiety and time it takes for continuous screening appointments.

One of the benefits of finding out you have the BRCA mutation early is that you can consider a first-consult with a plastic surgeon to determine what surgical options would work best for you without the added time constraints and emotional distress that come with a cancer diagnosis.

Common Prophylactic Mastectomy and Reconstruction Techniques

Mastectomy

Reconstruction

Screening vs. Surgery After You Test Positive for BRCA

Before deciding on increased screening and surveillance appointments or a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction, you will need to consider the pros and cons of each.

Monitoring

Surgery

Monitoring includes clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, and breast MRIs. These imaging studies allow your doctor to catch any potential abnormalities at the earliest stage.

Surgical removal of both breasts and surrounding tissues, thereby reducing the risk of developing breast cancer.

Pros

Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Non-invasive

  • Preserves breast tissue

  • Surgery is always an option later

  • Risk of missed cancer

  • Ongoing anxiety 

  • Potential for more aggressive treatment needed if cancer is detected

  • Significant risk reduction

  • Peace of mind

  • Potential for reconstruction

  • Surgery and recovery

  • Loss of breasts

  • Still a small risk of developing breast cancer

Surround Yourself With Support

Making decisions about what happens if you test positive for BRCA and the cancer management strategies you will need to put in place can be emotionally challenging. It is essential to lean on your friends and family for support. It is also important to find the best medical team to coordinate your care and provide you with all the answers you need to plan your care from start to finish. 

A plastic surgeon-first consult can help you determine your surgical goals with the outcomes in mind. Look for a plastic surgeon who:

Harris Plastic Surgery has a long history of helping women make these profoundly personal surgical decisions and delivering outcomes to match their goals.

Harris Plastic Surgery Experts in Breast Reconstruction and Revision

If you are BRCA positive, you have a range of options from screening to surgery, but the most important thing you can do during this difficult time is to surround yourself with a support system, including friends, family, and medical professionals you can trust. Consulting early with a plastic surgeon can give you peace of mind and expert coordination of your medical care.

So what happens if you test positive for BRCA? That’s really up to you. Contact us online or by phone/text message to find out your surgical options today.

Stephen U. Harris, MD FACS

Dr. Stephen U. Harris is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and recognized expert in breast reduction and reconstruction surgeries, having performed thousands in his career. When it comes to patient care, his philosophy is that every surgery should improve his patient’s overall quality of life, not just their appearance. Dr. Harris stays up-to-date on all the latest advancements in breast augmentation, reconstruction, and reduction and is a recognized innovator in the field. In fact, he was the first surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital to offer primary prepectoral implant breast reconstruction, as well as secondary prepectoral revision surgery.

Dr. Harris also serves as Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York and is an active staff surgeon (and former Chief of Plastic Surgery) at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, New York.

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