BRCA Test Debate

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The BRCA Test Debate: When and Why is the Test Beneficial
Introduction
Over the past decade, the abundance of research into breast cancer has revealed a strong correlation between the development of breast cancer and mutations in the human genome. Researchers have discovered two genes in which mutations are associated with a high risk for the development of certain cancers, particularly breast and ovarian cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes on chromosome 17 produce tumor suppressor proteins that repair damaged DNA to ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material. It is important to note that everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. However, there are specific mutations in each gene that do indicate an increased risk of breast and ovarian
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Many individuals find the process to be overly emotionally taxing and frightening, especially considering the confusing implications of the results. Surbone’s article “Social and Ethical Implications of BRCA Testing”, reflects, ““Scientists, physicians and bioethicists have consistently cared about the medical and psychosocial well-being of mutation carriers, and have cautioned the public about the limited predictive power of genetic testing, especially outside high-risk families, due to the relatively low gene penetrance, the possibility of new mutations with different significance that are still to be identified, and the role of environmental factors in cancerogenesis and tumor progression.” Essentially, the results of BRCA testing are not death sentences or free-cards. An individual with a positive result may not ever develop cancer and an individual with a negative result could— the results reflect likelihood and risk, not the certainty of a diagnosis. Despite the emotional taxes, many women decide to participate in testing. Jessica Boddy emphasizes the importance of gene testing and early screenings as they could result in early discovery and lead to better results and less treatment, she states, “The test results could help guide treatment, as well as future efforts to prevent more cancer.” In addition, Boddy encourages gene testing and awareness of the potential inheritance of harmful mutations. She implores, “BRCA mutations have a 1-in-2 chance of being passed down from parent to child, a patient carrying BRCA1 or BRCA2 is likely to pass it down to further generations as well”(Boddy). Ultimately, any of these reasons could influence an individual's decision to pursue or dismiss genetic testing. One must weigh their potential risk with their psychological resilience to determine if the information a BRCA gene test may provide would benefit their

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