Study Finds Some Women Are Missing Important Genetic Testing

National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines help decide which breast cancer patients should get genetically tested for mutations like the BRCA-1 gene mutation.

Dallas cancer surgeon Dr. Peter Beitsch said the latest guidelines for the genetic testing of breast cancer patients have limited the number of women who get tested and as a result, many women may miss on the testing process.

Approximately 330,000 patients are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the United States and of these cases, an estimated 10 percent are likely due to hereditary causes, according to Dr. Beitsch.

Dr. Beitsch and his colleagues set up a study to look at nearly 1,000 female breast cancer patients, half who met the criteria set forth in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, the other half who did not. 

The results showed that 83 women or 8.65 percent of the total participants, had breast cancer-linked genetic defects. Of these, 45 women met the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s criteria for testing, while 38 women did not. Ordinarily, then, these 38 women would not have been tested.

"Genetic testing is incredibly important for breast cancer patients, really all cancer patients, because it can affect their treatment right off the bat," said Dr. Beitsch.

He said a patient who knows she has a genetic mutation may choose a different course of treatment.

Dr. Beitsch said carrying the same genetic mutation, a female relative may be at increased risk for breast cancer, while male relatives may be at increased risk for prostate and other cancers.

He said insurance companies typically follow guidelines and as a result, will decide whether to reimburse or not. 

Genetic testing used to cost $5,000 for two genes.  It now costs $250 for 80 genes.

"If you know someone with breast cancer who hasn't been genetically tested, tell them about this and get them to see their physician to get tested."

To find a genetic counselor near you, click here.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network claimed here that its guidelines are up-to-date.

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