Experts are focusing on breast cancer prevention today, because the disease has become one of the leading causes of death among American women at this point in time.
But how should women be screened and can they afford it?
CBS news reported on a new test. The new cancer screening test is said to cost only $249 and it can detect a patient’s breast and ovarian cancer risk.
Who is offering the test?
A new start up company located in Silicon Valley has created the test to make screening more affordable. The name of the company is Color Genomics.
How is the test done?
It is actually an at home saliva test used to detect gene mutations that are connected to ovarian and breast cancer.
The test is set to cost $249, which seems extremely affordable in front of the genetic testing that goes on at a doctor’s office.
Generally genetic testing at a physician’s office costs around $4000. The company says their objective is to increase access to genetic testing for mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which often cause breast and/or ovarian cancer in many women. There are 17 other similar genes that the researchers involved also hope to bring more awareness and access to for testing.
Dr. Lapook, CBS news medical correspondent commented on the test and the issue surrounding the BRCA mutation.
He said, “A woman with the BRCA1 mutation has up to a 65 percent chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. About 3 percent of breast cancer cases per year, amounting to about 6,000 women, and 10 percent of ovarian cancers, affecting 2,000 women, result from inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.”
What would a woman typically do if she tests positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations? The patient may choose to undergo a preventive mastectomy and oophorectomy, or removal of the breasts and ovaries, to decrease her threat of developing these cancers.
What other options does she have?
The patient could also choose a less serious option, which includes more frequent screening, taking prescription medications like tamoxifen to decrease cancer risk, and lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise. However, researchers caution that testing positive for one of the mutations does not mean that a woman will definitely develop cancer and this makes decisions regarding preventive measures extremely complex and tough.
Dr. Jennifer Litton, an oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, also commented on the new test. She said,
“I would be concerned if people misinterpret a negative result as being no risk, especially if they come from a family that has a lot of different cancers or young onset of cancer.”
What has genetic testing been like until now?
Genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 has mostly been limited to patients who already have cancer or those with a family history of the disease. The current tests can range from $1,500 to $4,000, making it difficult for the uninsured to be tested. The start up hopes to eliminate these difficulties.