Medical Options for Women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations

Several medical options are available for managing breast and ovarian cancer risk in women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, but who have not yet had breast or ovarian cancer themselves. These options have risks and benefits, and you should discuss them with a doctor knowledgeable about medical management for women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

The most effective option for preventing cancer is surgery to remove the breasts (mastectomy) and ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy).

Other available options may reduce the chance of developing cancer or improve the likelihood of detecting it earlier, but the effectiveness of these options is less certain.

  • Taking medications (such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors) to lower the chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer
  • Yearly screening with breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mammogram, possibly starting at a younger age
  • Clinical breast exams, starting at a younger age and done more frequently
  • Screening for ovarian cancer with transvaginal ultrasound and CA-125 blood tests
  • Engaging in healthy behaviors, such as keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly
  • Paying attention to how your breasts normally look and feel and letting your doctor know right away if you notice any changes

BRCA genetic testing can also guide treatment options for women with breast or ovarian cancer. For example, women with cancer in one breast who test positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation may opt to have both breasts removed, rather than having surgery only on the affected breast.

Cancer screening for men with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations

Men with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are more likely to get breast cancer and high grade prostate cancer than other men. Both men and women with BRCA mutations are more likely to get pancreatic cancer. If you are a man with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Breast self-exam training and education starting at age 35
  • Yearly clinical breast exams starting at age 35
  • Prostate cancer screening starting at age 45, especially for men with a BRCA2 mutation
Page last reviewed: March 27, 2020