Actress Angelina Jolie has put a spotlight on the BRCA1 gene test with her New York Times op-ed piece explaining why she decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy.

Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy and the BRCA1 Gene Test
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In the article, she calls it a “faulty” gene that makes her more prone to breast and ovarian cancer. So what is the BRCA1 gene and how do doctors’ test it?

According to Cancer.gov, BRCA1 and BRCA2 stand for Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene 1 and Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene 2.

The website explains, “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. In normal cells, BRCA1 and BRCA2 help ensure the stability of the cell’s genetic material (DNA) and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Mutation of these genes has been linked to the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.”

To test for a mutation, doctors take a blood sample and receive results several weeks later. Patients also undergo genetic counseling before and after the test to discuss risk assessment. Jolie pointed out that the test can cost approximately $3,000 in the US.

Dr. Leif Rogers told “Extra,” “For those who do not have any history of breast cancer themselves or in their families... it's most likely unnecessary.”

For more information, visit Cancer.gov.

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