Misconception

“I was tested for mutations in my BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene when I was pregnant because I am an Ashkenazi Jew.”

Fact

The blood test that many Ashkenazi Jewish women have when they are pregnant is called the “Ashkenazi Jewish panel.” The test (a blood draw) is used by Ashkenazi Jewish individuals who wish to know their carrier status and/or risk of having a child with disorders such as Gaucher disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease that commonly occur in Ashkenazi Jewish individuals. The Ashkenazi Jewish panel is not the same test used to detect potentially harmful mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

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Misconception

“I may have a BRCA mutation, but it doesn’t impact me because men cannot get breast cancer.”

Fact

Though breast cancer is most commonly thought of as a woman’s disease, male breast cancer does occur. Male breast cancer is a rare cancer that forms in the breast tissue of men. A man with a BRCA2 gene mutation has about a 6-10% risk of developing breast cancer. In comparison, men in the general population have a less than 1% chance of developing breast. (Men who have a BRCA1 gene mutation may have a slightly increased risk for breast cancer, although this risk is not well-defined.)

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Misconception

“My family’s history of cancer is on my father’s side, so my cancer risk is less than if the cancer were on my mother’s side.”

Fact

If you are an Ashkenazi Jew with a family history of cancer, your risk of inheriting a potentially harmful mutation in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is the same whether the history of cancer is on your mother’s side or father’s side of the family.

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Misconception

“My mother was tested and learned that she does not have a mutation in her BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, so there’s no way I could have inherited a potentially harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.”

Fact

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can be inherited from an individual’s mother or father.

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Misconception

“If I am screened and find out that I have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, I will definitely develop cancer.”

Fact

People inherit an increased likelihood of developing cancer, not the disease itself. Not all people who inherit mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes will ultimately develop cancer.

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Misconception

“If I discover I have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, my biological child will definitely inherit the mutation.”

Fact

Both men and women who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a 50% chance of passing it on to their child.