Follow-up of carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants of unknown significance: Variant reclassification and surgical decisions

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Approximately 5–10% of patients who undergo genetic testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2 receive a variant of unknown significance (VUS) result. The ambiguous nature of a VUS may increase difficulty in patient understanding and decision making regarding risk reduction and surveillance options, including cancer risk-reducing surgeries. VUS reclassification to benign or deleterious may occur in time; however, clinical decisions may need to be made expeditiously, and some patients may pursue irreversible treatments before VUS reclassification.


We reviewed the surgical decisions of 107 women postdisclosure of a BRCA VUS result counseled at our institute between 1998 and 2009.


Among women receiving a BRCA VUS result at our center, 11 of 107 (10.3%) pursued cancer risk-reducing mastectomy and 22 of 107 (20.6%) pursued cancer risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Reclassification of VUS occurred up to 9 years after testing, and 5 of 22 (22.7%) women followed up for 8 or more years continue to have a VUS result. We discuss considerations for providers of genetic services to discuss with patients who receive a VUS result.

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