Only a small percentage of women qualify to take the genetic
test that screens for BRCA mutations, said Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of
Breastcancer.org and director of breast health oncology at Lankenau
Medical Center in the Philadelphia area.
Women who test positive for one or both mutations have about a 60
percent risk of breast cancer during their lifetimes, compared with 12
percent for women without such mutations, according to the National
Cancer Institute. Women with a BRCA mutation are also likely to develop
the disease at a younger age and are more likely to get it in both
breasts, Rader said.
"The discovery of the BRCA mutation was an enormous step forward,"
Rader said. For the right candidate, "the mutation is a really good
indicator of the possibility of developing breast cancer."
Who should test
If you have a strong family connection to breast cancer that includes
an immediate family member, you may consider genetic testing, said Susan
Brown, Komen's managing director for community health.
But "not everyone with breast cancer in their family should run out and
get this test," Brown said, as it's expensive, about $3,000, and may
not be covered by insurance.
As we grow closer to
understanding breast cancer on a genetic level and identifying
precursors, molecular warnings, and genetic predispositions, we
anticipate the costs of testing go down. As technology and research
increase, the demand for affordable genetic testing will create a stable
supply for anyone to use.
Genetic testing is recommended for those with:
►A personal or family history of breast cancer at age 45 or younger.
►A family member with ovarian cancer at any age.