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Campaign promotes BRCA analysis test for women

By Staff | Nov 24, 2008

Myriad Genetics Inc., a national genetics company, is launching a public awareness campaign throughout Florida asking women to receive a BRCA analysis test — one that identifies whether a woman has a genetic mutation responsible for breast and ovarian cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates this year that 180,000 women will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer and 22,000 for ovarian cancer. Ten percent of these women have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, two genes that typically prevent cancer although they increase a person’s susceptibility if altered.

Dr. Jane Daniels, an OBGYN in Fort Myers, explained that the BRCA analysis is a simple blood test where results are available in two weeks.

“It tells whether you have a genetic mutation that puts you at risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer,” she said. “There are other cancers that it will also put you at risk for.”

A woman with a BRCA genetic mutation has a 56 percent to 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer and 27 percent to 44 percent chance of ovarian cancer by age 70. Women without the alteration ordinarily have a 7 percent chance for breast cancer and 2 percent chance for ovarian cancer.

“The younger you are diagnosed the more likely you are to have a genetic mutation,” explained Daniels. “And the more family members you have with breast cancer the more likely you will have a genetic mutation.”

While Daniels administers a number of genetic tests at her practice in Fort Myers, she also tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. She said the gene comes from her father, and each of her siblings has a 50-50 chance of developing the mutation.

Of course, having a BRCA mutation will not guarantee a diagnosis of cancer. Daniels explained that 80 percent of people who get breast cancer have a negative family history, and in some cases cancer develops for unknown reasons.

“I think there are mutations that we are unable to identify,” she said.

Although no test is completely reliable, doctors recommend that all women know their BRCA status.

“There are approximately half a million women in the United States who may be carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, which predisposes them to developing breast or ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Gregory C. Critchfield, president of Myriad Genetic Laboratories. “That is why it is so important to educate women who have a family history of cancer so they can then take steps to reduce their risk.”

Daniels explained that the test has been available for nearly a decade, but there are a lot of people who are not aware of it or choose not to take it. Furthermore, she said many physicians are not educated about genetic tests.

Genetic tests for the BRCA gene typically cost $3,500, but most insurance companies will cover the test. On the other hand, a patient should always check to make sure that their specific policy will cover genetic tests. The highest out-of-pocket expense for the test would be no more than $350, said Daniels.

“Some breast cancer foundations will cover the costs if you have no insurance on a case-by-case basis,” said Daniels. “The most obvious person to be tested is the one with the disease. Instead of testing people with family history, it makes more sense to test a women who has breast cancer.”

Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is associated with families that have one of the following: a breast cancer diagnosis before age 50, ovarian cancer at any age, both breast and ovarian cancer, two primary breast cancers, breast cancer in males of any age and some specific ethnic groups.

For more information, visit: www.bracnow.com.