Mathew Knowles urged daughters Beyonce and Solange to get BRCA test, have you had one?

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Last week, I wrote about Mathew Knowles’ revelation that he had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He spoke with Michael Strahan on Good Morning about his diagnosis, his family history of breast cancer, and how he is on a mission to get more people to get tested for the BRCA gene mutations that increase the risk of developing several different types of cancers. Matthew is currently cancer-free following his single mastectomy this summer. (He had told Michael that he plans to have a second mastectomy in January.) He also encouraged his daughters to get tested for the gene mutation:

Mathew Knowles knows firsthand the power of early detection, which is why he urged his daughters, superstar singers Beyoncé and Solange, to undergo BRCA genetic testing after he was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.

The BRCA gene test is a blood test that identifies harmful and potentially cancer-causing mutations in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2. Knowles, 67, a music executive who teaches at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation while doctors were diagnosing his condition over the summer.

Since mutations in the BRCA2 gene can be inherited, Knowles tells PEOPLE in an interview for this week’s issue that “Beyoncé and Solange have an increased risk” of having his same mutation.

But, he notes, “They have an exceptional team, and they’ve gone through precautionary measures,” including the BRCA gene test.

“They have taken care of that, it’s simple testing,” he says. “And they’re moving on.”

[From People]

Speaking of Beyonce, People mentioned that in December, Mathew is also releasing a book on Destiny’s Child, Destiny’s Child: The Untold Story and is working on a musical about the group.

It’s so important that Mathew is speaking up and sharing his story and working to end the stigma around men being diagnosed with breast cancer. Mathew acknowledged that his two oldest daughters have been tested for the gene mutation. I hope that they don’t have it, but knowing their potential cancer risk means that they can be even more proactive in their healthcare choices. This story also gives me the opportunity to mention that if you are a 23andMe customer, you can now [possibly] find out, as part of your report, whether you have the BRCA gene mutation. (If you’re considering it or already have gotten the report, though, you might want to check out this article in the New York Times about a study that revealed that 23andMe’s testing incorrectly gave negative results to a large number of people who do have the gene mutation. CB said her 23andMe test was negative and I’m wondering if she’s seen this yet.) I was hoping to find that the test was leading to a higher number of people who were perhaps then detecting breast cancer in its earlier stages. I’m really curious to see whether Mathew’s story leads to an increase in early detection of breast cancer and higher survival rates. I hope so!

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43 Responses to “Mathew Knowles urged daughters Beyonce and Solange to get BRCA test, have you had one?”

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  1. TheOriginalMia says:

    Yes. We found out that out of 27 grandkids, 18 have the gene. I am 1 of 4 who have/had cancer in the last 3 years. It’s no joke. Convincing my cousins to get tested has been hard. Getting them to do the necessary preventive surgery has been harder.

  2. ChillyWilly says:

    Will insurance pay for the BRCA test or is this another thing only the rich are allowed access to in the US?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Supposedly under Obamacare it is covered?

      Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to pay for both genetic counseling and BRCA testing for women who meet certain criteria. For these patients, insurance companies must cover the entire cost of genetic counseling and BRCA testing with no out-of-pocket costs to the individual.

      • lucy2 says:

        Good. Another reason voting is so important.

      • ChillyWilly says:

        Interesting. I just had a mammogram and I
        The BRCA test wasn’t offered to me. I don’t have a family history that I know of so maybe that’s why. Thanks Elizabeth.

    • TheOriginalMia says:

      Before ACA, I paid for mine. It was $300. There are grants for low income women to get theirs done free.

  3. Ameara says:

    My mom had breast cancer last year and the doctor said I don’t have to get tested until I’m 35 (I’m 24). Do you think I should? My mom is not worried about me (because she’s very positive, not because she doesn’t care), but I think I should get tested. I don’t know what to do.

    • ama says:

      The following typical family patterns may indicate hereditary breast and ovarian cancer:

      three women with breast cancer
      Two women with breast cancer, at least one of them ill before the 51st birthday
      a disease of breast cancer before the 36th birthday
      a woman with bilateral breast cancer, the first illness before her 51st birthday
      a woman with breast cancer as well as a woman with ovarian cancer
      a woman suffering from breast and ovarian cancer
      two women with ovarian cancer
      a man with breast cancer as well as a woman with breast or ovarian cancer
      Also look up guidelines or speak to your Ob/Gyn.

    • OriginalLala says:

      my aunt (married into the family) had a mother and sister die of breast cancer, she got breast cancer at 34 as well, when her daughter was a baby. She is lucky it was caught early because she started mammograms super early due to her family history, but it was a very aggressive cancer. They had my cousin, their daughter, tested but didn’t tell her the results until she was an adult and able to make her own health decisions, she is terrified she will also get breast cancer.

      Keep talking to your doctor, communication is key and don’t be afraid to be your own advocate!

    • lucy2 says:

      If you are able to get tested now, I think I would do it, especially if you are worried – 11 years of worry is not good for anyone. Hopefully everything’s good and you’ll have peace of mind. Either way, knowledge is power, and you have to be your own best advocate, so if you feel you want to be tested now, push for that.

    • TheOriginalMia says:

      Get tested! That way you can plan your life. My cousins’ kids were tested and they had the gene. They are in their late 20s. They are making plans to either have kids or freeze their eggs. It’s great to be positive. It’s better to be aware.

    • Ameara says:

      Thanks! I want to do it but sometimes I feel like I might be overreacting. My mother was the first person in our family to have breast cancer (she was 49 when she was diagnosed) but my grandmother had to remove one of her ovaries (I don’t know why, it wasn’t cancer), so I’m worried. My grandmother and mother had cancer at the same time, that’s why I think I’m spooked (even though my grandmother had pancreatic/lung cancer, not breast cancer).

  4. Lisa says:

    I am glad he is speaking out about this because early detection is key.

  5. lowercaselila says:

    As long as pre existing conditions are under attack from the Trump Administration to eliminate it from the Affordable Care Act then I will not take the BRCA test. This test will be a way for Health Insurance companies to not cover certain women who carry the BRCA gene or drop them from their health Insurance because they got breast cancer.

  6. amurph says:

    I asked my doctor about testing since my grandmother died from breast cancer and my mom is being watched for “suspicious cells and lesions” (they don’t want to jump into surgery if she doesn’t need to since she’s immune compromised). Colon cancer is also connected to the BRCA genes. My doctor told me to have my mom tested and then go from there.

  7. JennyJenny says:

    So here’s the thing….
    My mother and I are both BRCA negative.
    I’ve had Breast cancer 3 times; I’m currently living with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, the rarest of them all. Ugh.

    My Mom starts treatment next week for now her THIRD case of Breast cancer.
    The doctors are unable to explain to us why this has happened, except saying we’ve had really bad luck…..

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      I’m sorry.
      Not all cancers can be detected from that test- My mother, sister and I are all negative, but they have both had breast cancer. My sister at 49. I get mammograms every year, and breast MRI with gadolinium contrast every other year as surveillance.
      Maternal side:
      Great aunt with breast & ovarian. Second cousin once removed, breast and bowel. Mother and sister as mentioned above.

      Paternal side: First cousin deceased from breast cancer at 50. Another first cousin deceased from uterine sarcoma in early 50s.

      Don’t wait to be tested. Stay on top of surveillance and BSE monthly.

    • Lightpurple says:

      The majority of those of us who get breast cancer do not have the BRCA gene.

    • Notafan says:

      Jenny Jenny, when did you get tested? If it was more than two years ago or if you got tested for just BRCA you should go back for “expanded panel” genetic testing. There are mutations such as p53 and CHEK2 mutations which are also associated with breast and other cancers. It also changes what kind of imaging you should have, and what kind if any preventative surgery your insurance will cover. If your primary care doc doesn’t know about it, please check with your oncologist. At my place of work people who were tested for BRCA genes three or more years ago are being offered this new testing.

  8. katriona m bowman says:

    BRCA is not the only gene. Even if you test negative for it (as I have) there are plenty of others out there including some that aren’t conventionally tested for. Regular screening and self checks are so important. I feel that tests like 23andMe breed a false sense of complacency. I tested BRCA negative so 23andMe told me I had a low risk of breast cancer. When in fact I have a KLLN issue that is so rare it’s not tested for, but has an 85% likelihood of developing breast cancer.

    Screen. Self check.

    • M says:

      Yes my best friend just found out she was positive for Lynch syndrome (another genetic predisposition to many cancers ) after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and tested positive for it. There are multiple cancers associated with it and she is getting a prophylactic hysterectomy and mastectomy in the next year at age 41

  9. Bookworm says:

    That’s right, JennyJenny, people need to STOP putting all the importance on the BRCA and realize that you can have breast cancer without having the gene.

    PLEASE do not think you are safe just because you don’t have the gene. I had BC at age 37 with no family history, do not have the BRCA, and my mother and sister never got it. Whatever my own body’s hormone situation created had nothing to do with genetics.

    Don’t ignore any signs; don’t think if you wait a few months it will go away; get a second opinion if your doctor says oh it’s nothing.

    • JennyJenny says:

      Thank you ~

    • ChillyWilly says:

      Great advice Bookworm.

    • Lua says:

      Great advice. Most of us won’t have the gene. Screen and self check. Know what your breasts look like and if you see a change in shape or color go to the doctor. If you have family members or are of Jewish descent be extra vigilant even if you don’t have the gene.

    • Aurelia says:

      Apparently the biggest risk factors are abusing alcohol and obesity. But it is truly a mystery though. My maternal grandmother died of pre menopausal breast cancer in the 1970’s. She had a trim figure, had never been on the hormonal contraceptive pill EVER in her life. She did not drink alcohol. She ate unprocessed foods, had all her 3 children before she was 21 years old and breast fed them all for over 1 year each. She was a candiate for not getting breast cancer.

      Then there is the line of thought that HRT absolutely gives you breast cancer. That’s not true. There is a small increase that I am ready to take. If I indeed get breast cancer I will not allow anybody to blame HRT. I think back to my grandmother who never touched the stuff. How many of those women on HRT who get cancer would have gone onto get it regardless of being on HRT or not, My guess is they would have, Thank god we have the internet to talk to other women all around the world and share our knowledge.

  10. Arpeggi says:

    Oh I sure hope commercial kits like 23andMe offer that type of information! I’m sorry but most people don’t have the medical literacy to understand what such a result actually means and even those who do would still benefit from some sort of support to decide the best option for them. I know that medical fees are stupidly high in the US, but DIY diagnosis are dangerous.

  11. Mary says:

    I am not comfortable with this idea of everyone getting tested for the BRCA genes using sites like 23andMe which were not designed with this purpose in mind. I think it’s positive for people to discuss this topic openly, but it is irresponsible to be offering medical advice to a multitude of people on a celebrity gossip website.

    Specifically, there are a lot of implications to the results of this particular test. I am Canadian, and so I realize that the options that I have are not available to everyone globally but it’s not responsible to just tell people to take a test via a mail-in sample without further detail and context. My mother’s family carries the gene and my mother and sister are both positive for BRCA 1. In order to take the test to see if I have the gene in Canada, I first had to see a specialized counsellor who discussed the specifics of my case and what my options were for either test result. My mother has had a hysterectomy and my sister has had an oopheractomy (ovaries) as part of their own cancer prevention planning with their doctors. These are not small procedures and there are implications for your long term health, as well as to your insurances status (even in Canada wrt life insurance).

    I think this article is well intentioned to remind both women and men to be on top of their breast health but it goes a little too far and you should consider either retracting those statements advocating for the testing without further details or else add additional details and links to resources about genetic cancer testing.

  12. Kristina says:

    My mom first got breast cancer at 41, then again at 55. She died from it at 61, but was bedridden and could not use her left side for about a decade before that, due to tumors in her brain. Her sister had (and survived!!!!!) ovarian cancer, diagnosed the same year as my mom. My mom’s dad died of pancreatic cancer the year the 2 sisters were diagnosed. I got tested at 29. I dropped to my knees and SOBBED when my BRCA tests came back negative. My sister was also negative- but my brother refuses to test. My mother’s mother is still alive at 95. Life, so many twists and turns.

    ETA that I still get 3D mammograms and every test and checkup, as directed, because despite my negative result, I’m still moderately high risk due to family history. It’s a scary disease and there is never absence of worry about it for me.

    • Aurelia says:

      Condolences. Just be aware though that every time a woman has a radiation mammogram she is exposing herself to cancer risk. Seems ironic doesn’t it. I have thermograms which look for rises in heat on a 6 or 12 month basis. They are better at discovering early stage tumours.

      • Kristina says:

        Thank you! I have actually worried about this and prefer an ultrasound. Is that ok? You’ve inspired me to email my doctor.

      • better than scrubs says:

        Thermograms are not effective screening tests and are specifically not recommended by the American College of Radiologists. The radiation from a mammogram is less than that from a 2 hour plane ride. There is negligible risk unless you are very young when getting mammograms when the breast tissue is still developing.

  13. bobafelty says:

    The 23 and me test is a good first step, if you have no idea what your risks are. If you have any specific concerns, especially about breast or ovarian cancer, I would get more specific testing done with your doctor and paid for with insurance.

    The 23 and me health test changed my life. I am a carrier of a terrible disease, and had no idea. No one on either side of my family has had the disease (that I know of), so I had no reason to ever be tested for anything like that. Now I’m aware that my partner needs genetic testing before I ever consider having kids.

  14. Tigerlily says:

    The problem with 23 and me is that it’s not a medical grade test. I know things are different in the US (Canadian here) but don’t rely on 23 and me. Get appropriate medical advice and testing. It’s really sucky though that it could count against you as a pre-existing condition.

  15. Lightpurple says:

    Several people have said this already but I am going to say it again, loudly:


    Most of us who have had breast cancer test negative on that test. Do monthly self-exams – that’s how I found mine. Have an annual breast exam with your medical provider. When you’re old enough, get an annual mammogram. Know your risk factors. These include: family history; age at first period; age at first pregnancy or no pregnancies; age at menopause.

    My cousin and I knew at about age 13 that one or both of us would get breast cancer early. It’s something we confided in each other and nobody else. I was the one. She was my greatest support.

  16. better than scrubs says:

    I’m also going to reiterate! I’m a breast surgeon. DO NOT use 23 and me for BRCA testing. If you want to get genetic testing, see a genetic counselor and if your insurance doesn’t cover it, Invitae testing is only about $250. Genetic counseling is very important because they can help interpret the results for you – a negative result may still put you in the higher risk category (>20%) when other factors are considered. Most breast cancer is not associated with a known gene mutation. If you have risk factors, contact a breast surgeon for enrollment in a high risk clinic.

    And don’t knock on the insurance companies – they cover almost anybody at risk for mutations and the chances of having a mutation without a family history/personal history/high risk ethnic group are very tiny.

  17. Nancypants says:

    My older sister developed BC at 26 and died at 30.
    We had no known history of BC in the family and none of us have had it since.

    I was in the Air Force for 22 years and they insisted on annual exams which I
    kept up with after I retired and I’m fine.

    When I was around 26, I asked the doctor if I should have the gene test and it was fairly new and the doctor said she didn’t want me to have it because I wouldn’t always be in the military and I might have a hard time getting insurance. I think she was right.

    Get it, don’t get it but it might affect your ability to get insurance or keep it if you test positive.
    Of course, the rich don’t really need to worry about that.

  18. Whatnow says:

    Paternal :
    Both grandparents died cancer
    My father died cancer
    Both Aunts died cancer (his sisters)
    3 for 3 on first cousins (children of deceased aunts ) still living but losing the battle
    2 great uncles died cancer
    Numerous other great great passed from cancer

    Nothing left to be said except cancer is not my family’s friend

  19. mara says:

    I was diagnosed with Stage 4/metastatic breast cancer at age 29. The genetic tests indicated that I do not have the gene mutation, but I would highly recommend that anyone with a family history be tested. I was diagnosed with an unrelated cancer in the other breast several years after the first diagnosis. I will make it my life mission to get my daughter tested and followed early.

  20. BRCA mutant says:

    I am typing this at 16 days post op … full hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (and my cervix went, too) due to a BRCA1 mutation.

    There are a lot of different variants of BRCA1 and 2 mutations. I have what’s known as a founder mutation; it’s pretty common in the affected community. There is a greater risk of male breast cancer with a BRCA2 variant.

    I inherited paternally and my family history is all ovarian cancer. However, I know people who have a family history of only breast cancer. The only mitigator for me is prophylactic surgery. The ovarian screening is akin to aiming two leaky squirt guns at a blazing inferno. The breast screening is better, but the mastectomy is still necessary for me. That’s coming in the spring.

    I can’t tell you how relieved I feel to know I won’t have another ovarian cancer scare during a screening. And how relieved I am that I won’t die the way my grandmother did.

  21. June-Bug says:

    Can’t speak to every health care plan, but my BRCA test was completely covered financially because I had multiple risk factors, including scads of family members with breast and ovarian cancer.

    While I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, and was treated with radiation, my BRCA tests came back negative so I don’t have the marker. (I’m trying to convince others in my family to get tested- knowledge is power!)

    I completely appreciate the emphasis on BRCA, but feel I was particularly lucky as it was my nurse practitioner who insisted that I have my FIRST mammogram. Without her (and, yes the Affordable Care Act that made it possible for me to have insurance after a decade of not having coverage!), we wouldn’t have caught it so early and the outcome could have been far less positive.

  22. DNAgirl says:

    Some great comments here. I’m a genetic counselor and have been taking care of BRCA patients for over 20 years. Here are the facts (as I see them):
    1. Don’t use 23andMe for clinical grade testing. It’s not designed for that and it has an unacceptable false negative and false positive rate
    2. You CAN use at-home genetic tests from Invitae or Color. These are CLINICAL grade, which means I order them, and they are designed for patient management. They are $99 in October in honor of breast awareness month
    3. There are clear guidelines as to who needs testing and who doesn’t because the facts are that only 1/300-800 (depending on ancestry) people have a BRCA mutation. If you are Eastern European Jewish then it’s 1/45. Another statistic: only 5-10% of all breast cancers is hereditary. So out of 100 women with breast cancer, only 5-10 will have developed it because of hereditary predisposition (of any kind, BRCA or other genes).
    4. You don’t need to “fit” the guidelines if you are curious and want to bypass going to a doctor’s office. See #2
    5. There are now at least 10 genes that are strongly associated with breast cancer
    6. Let’s not forget hereditary ovarian cancer or colon cancer; they don’t get as much attention, but they can also be inherited, and they are more deadly than breast cancer.
    5. If you have questions, make an appt with a genetic counselor. We are trained to do this. We order the test and also interpret the test if you have had the test done elsewhere.

  23. Miatagal says:

    I had the BRCA testing done about 10 years ago as my Mother had ovarian cancer at 42. She survived, only to later die of a heart attack at 62. My test was negative, but that only means you have no greater risk than the average person. It does not mean you will never get it. There also are other criteria besides that. When the envelope came in the mail with the results, I had to leave it on the counter for a few hours while I pondered what I would do if the results were positive. This was after Angelina Jolie had hers done. My insurance did pay as I was in the high risk category.