BRCA Testing During Covid19

We have had an increase in enquiries to Ask Eve, our nurse-led gynae information line, asking about BRCA testing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Women who carry a BRCA mutation are at increased risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.

The risks vary depending on a number of factors, such as your specific mutation (BRCA1 or BRCA2), age and family history. Your genetics team or cancer clinician will be able to discuss your risk with you in detail and talk you through the options available to you.

Q: I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I am worried I might have the BRCA gene, will testing still be affected?

A: We want to reassure you and your families that NHSE National recommendations under the direction of Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer and SRO for Genomics have identified a number of high priority indications where genetic testing to inform clinical management will continue.

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, BRCA testing is seen as an urgent diagnostic service as it helps the oncologist choose the right chemotherapy for you. So ALL women with ovarian cancer should continue to be offered a BRCA test.

The test can be carried out on the tumour (tBRCA or somatic test), or on your blood (gBRCA or germline test), either way you will be given information and counselling on what this means and the implications of the test for you and your family.

Outside of the pandemic you would be offered both tests (parallel testing) but as our laboratories are stretched massively coping with the Covid 19 workload, you may have just one test to save resources.

Q: I have found out I have a faulty BRCA gene, I am worried about the cancer risk of my family, will they still be able to get tested?

A: If you have an ovarian cancer diagnosis, your genetic test is called a diagnostic test, this is because your doctors are using it to inform their treatment decisions for you. You will naturally want to know if members of your family are likely to also carry the alteration in their BRCA genes. This type of testing is called predictive testing.

Outside of the pandemic, if you are found to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene alteration, your immediate family members (parents, siblings and/or children) will be eligible for testing. Your team will give you a letter to pass on to your family members so that they can make an appointment to see their GP and get a referral to genetic testing. During the Covid-19 pandemic however, it is likely that their referral is not going to be available due to laboratory capacity. ​

We understand that this may cause worry and concern for you and your family, and you can contact Ask Eve to discuss your risk and the risk to your loved ones. Please remember that if you do have the altered BRCA gene, your immediate family members only have a 50% risk of also having the altered gene and this doesn’t mean that they will have a related cancer, it means their risk is higher than the general population. Do remind them to take their letter to their GP for a referral once the pandemic is over.

For more information on BRCA and what it means to you and your family go to our Inherited Risks Information or contact Ask Eve for free and confidential advice on 0808 802 0019, or nurse@eveappeal.org.uk.