Every woman who carries a BRCA mutation interprets her cancer risk in her own way. For some women, a family’s history of cancer influences how they assess their own risk. For others, their knowledge of cancer risk drives their risk management decisions. Your perception of risk may influence the risk management decisions that you make.

your sense of risk after your BRCA test result:

Feeling you’re more at risk
for a particular cancer that
your family has struggled with

Melissa talks about how her family history
of breast and ovarian cancer shaped her sense of risk

Read the transcript

my mom’s sister got breast cancer at 35. So I thought, “that’ll get me first”


In Melissa’s case, she considered her mom and aunt’s struggles with cancer. She felt she needed to have a risk-reducing mastectomy before she turned 35 years old because her aunt had breast cancer at 35 years old.

You may be worried most about the specific type of cancer that has already affected members of your family. It’s normal to feel this way but it is important for you to fully understand your personal risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. A genetic counsellor can help you understand your specific risk for these cancers.

your sense of risk after your BRCA test result:

Feeling you’re more at risk
for a particular cancer
based on your research

Farah talks about how it feels to be at high risk
and her decisions after

Read the transcript

I think my biggest fear was ovarian cancer, even though there was no ovarian cancer in my family. The horror stories of this cancer – that it’s very hard to diagnose and can tend to spread very quickly for people that are BRCA1. So I was very very scared about it.


Two women can feel completely different about their cancer risks, even if their risk levels are similar. Family history is not the only reason you can see your risk differently. Farah had no family members that had developed ovarian cancer. However, she knew that it was very difficult to detect ovarian cancer early and that this type of cancer can progress quickly. Her ovarian cancer risk scared her more than her breast cancer risk, so she decided to have her ovaries removed (an oophorectomy) first.

If you have a BRCA mutation, you might be convinced that you will develop cancer – it just becomes a question of when, not if. For some women, this rationale can help them to feel more confident with their decision to have risk-reducing surgery.

I wasn’t considering [a risk-reducing mastectomy] because I didn’t have cancer…I don’t worry about it.”


Women can differ in how they interpret risk statistics. There is a chance that a BRCA mutation carrier will not develop breast or ovarian cancer. For some women, they feel confident choosing screening instead of risk-reducing surgery as long as their risk is not 100%. Ros did not choose surgery because she had no sign of cancer, and didn’t feel overly worried about it.

Your feelings about your cancer risk can play a role in what decision you make about surgery. It is a difficult and very personal decision to remove a part of your body that is healthy. Remember that there is no right or wrong decision regarding risk reducing surgery .



If you are having a hard time deciding whether to have a risk reducing mastectomy,
it may be helpful to work through our interactive decision-making guide.

If you are having a hard time understanding what your cancer risk numbers mean for you,
it may be helpful to learn about cancer risks.