BRCA Testing During Covid19

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 be available during covid?

A: Yes, Covid19 hasn’t affected BRCA testing being offered to people who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Not all types of ovarian cancer are linked to the BRCA gene alteration, so if you aren’t offered BRCA testing as part of your ovarian cancer pathway, it is likely to be because the type of cancer isn’t applicable to BRCA, rather than pandemic restrictions.

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, BRCA testing is seen as part of the diagnostic service as it helps the oncologist choose the right chemotherapy for you.

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.

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, it is likely that predictive testing will be delayed.

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.

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.