Testing for the breast cancer gene

Published: May. 16, 2013 at 10:54 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2013 at 6:10 PM CDT
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Amarillo, Texas - Genetic testing for breast cancer has been making headlines.

Early detection is the best way to prevent breast cancer. Now more and more women are turning to a test for prevention long before they ever develop signs.

"There are two known genes that are well studied that have been associated with breast and ovarian cancer syndrome," Srini Reddy, M.D., Texas Oncology says.

A simple swab of the mouth or blood test can tell you if you are a carrier of the cancer genes BRCA 1 or 2. Doctors tell us testing for the gene is a good preventative measure women can take.

"So by doing the genetic testing you can test to see does she, or does she not. If she didn't have that gene then she was not at much high of a risk of developing breast cancer, but by having that gene that put her in a very high risk," Peggy Smith, Certified Oncology Nurse for Harrington Cancer Center says.

But, not every woman needs to be tested. Doctors say women who currently have cancer and those who have had family members with breast or ovarian cancer at an early age should be tested.

"If they have several family members with those cancers, then they should contact genetic risk assessment program like ours and get counseling," Reddy says.

Those who are positive for the gene have a 90 percent chance of developing cancer in their lifetime. But, there are preventative measures those women can take that don't involve surgery.

"But we don't recommend to anybody unless they have the positive gene, and unless they are already affected by cancer. But if they're not affected by cancer, even if they have a positive gene, there are other options like more screening or preventative medication," Reddy says.

Doctors recommend going through pre-testing counseling to further decide if you are a candidate.

More information on genetic testing can be found on Texas Oncology's website, http://www.texasoncology.com/patients-public/medical-services/genetic-testing.aspx