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Breast Cancer & Genetic Testing

Posted Oct 19 2009 12:00am
A woman's breast cancer risk is greatly increased if she has a specific mutation in certain genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2.  For those at risk of having this gene mutation, genetic testing is available.  However, going through such testing requires specific counseling before and after testing, can cost between hundreds and thousands of dollars, might not be covered by insurance, and comes with a variety of ethical issues.  So, the decision to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer risk is a major one.  You can read more about this at the National Cancer Institute.

New breast cancer research published October 10th might make this decision easier for some people.  In an attempt to better define women at risk for this breast cancer gene mutation, scientists developed a panel of tests that examined breast cancer tissue characteristics.  These investigators examined the presence or absence of the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) in breast cancer tumors and used this information to predict BRCA1 mutations.  Using this test, the detection rate of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene mutation increased from about 11% to about 45%.  The scientists believe that this testing procedure might be useful for both breast cancer therapy and for detecting a specific group of patients at high risk for this breast cancer gene mutation.

If this proves to be a valid tool after further research, this could be great news for women with a family history of breast cancer.  In addition to considering family history and other standard risk measures, this testing method could be used to more accurately determine breast cancer risk from this gene mutation and help women make a more informed decision regarding genetic testing.  If you are interested, you can download and read the full scientific paper.

While this has the potential to be a great tool for determining breast cancer risk from this particular gene mutation, it is still important to try to reduce the risk of breast cancer occurring in the first place.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Caner at to increase your breast cancer awareness and learn what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk.
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