Breast Cancer DNA Testing
10% or less of all cancer have a genetic component attached to it which might lead one to believe that there is no cost effective use for DNA testing to diagnose cancer. But breast cancer is different because DNA testing is actually able to diagnose a mutated gene that increases a women’s risk of breast cancer significantly.
When it comes to genetic testing BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the key to breast cancer DNA testing. 80% of all inherited breast cancers are attached to the mutation of these genes and they also signal that there may be an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
All that is required for a genetic test is just a small sample of blood. But the test is very sophisticated using a molecular technique in which DNA is extracted from white blood cells which is then sequenced.
There is only one lab that can actually do this test. The lab is located in Salt Lake City. It takes about 4 weeks to get the results back. The expense is rather high at just under $3000 for the testing, genetic counseling and insurance coverage.
Genetic counseling is critical before any DNA testing is actually done. All patients undergo need to undergo some pre-testing with the genetic counseling. This involves the assessment of the personal information of the patient as well as the medical history of the family. It also includes some cancer education as well as discussing the risks, limitations of the test, as well as the benefit.
For example a family history of cancer at an early age, or incidents of ovarian cancer and/or breast cancer in the genetic gene pool makes you at higher risk then others and it is more likely that the testing will be conducted.
If you carry a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. If you test negative then you are at no greater risk than any other women even if you have had family members with breast cancer.
With all the attention paid to breast cancer you might think that the risks are actually much higher than they are. In the general population your risk for breast cancer is about 12% and a 1% to 2% chance of developing ovarian cancer. Those low numbers don’t mean you don’t need to be diligent with breast examinations. Being proactive and detecting breast cancer early are sure ways to increase the survival rates.
The mammogram is still the most common detection method used for breast cancer and there are newer technologies on the horizon which look very promising and are in fact in play in some areas. And although breast cancer DNA testing is currently used minimally you could see it become more main stream in the future.
Those with the gene have a 60% to 80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 20% to 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer. And it’s those numbers that explain why it is so critical that a breast cancer DNA test be done.