Mainstreaming genetic counseling for BRCA testing into oncology clinics - Indian perspective

Indian J Cancer. 2019 Nov;56(Supplement):S38-S47. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_458_19.


BReastCAncer (BRCA) susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are mainly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome and present an estimated 45%-65% cumulative lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and an 11%-39% risk of ovarian cancer. HBOC is also linked to triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). BRCA1 mutations in TNBC are observed in 36% of women age <40 years and 27% of women age <50 years. In India, the prevalence of BRCA1/2 mutation varies from 2.9% to 38% among families with genetic predisposition toward hereditary cancers. With HBOC being linked to early-onset breast cancer and increased susceptibility to other cancers, early screening for BRCA mutations has become a pressing need. Though genetic counseling (GC) for BRCA mutation testing is common in most of the developed countries, India still faces several challenges in mainstreaming the same. Many barriers to effective GC for BRCA testing are unique to India. There is a dearth of trained geneticists which puts the pressure on oncologists to give GC for which they neither have the time or training. Presence of multiethnic/linguistic population acts as a major hindrance along the way toward development of robust predictive and effective GC models for BRCA testing. The current review discusses the need and benefits of GC in breast cancer prevention, through BRCA testing, from an Indian perspective. The functional framework of GC and the role of genetic counselors are discussed in detail. In addition, importance of GC training and role of a multidisciplinary team approach for mainstreaming pre- and post-BRCA test GC is highlighted.

Keywords: BRCA 1/BRCA 2; India; breast cancer; genetic counseling; mutation testing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling / methods*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human