Submitted by Dr. Karen David, medical geneticist
Thank you for publishing “Breast Cancer: Is It all in your Genes” in honor of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month to bring this to the attention of your readers. We would like to offer some clarification. Your article suggests that the cost for genetic testing is very high, several thousand dollars. In fact, most insurance companies will cover the cost of testing given certain criteria, such as personal and/or family history of the following: breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, ovarian cancer, bilateral breast cancer, or certain ethnic backgrounds such as Ashkenazi Jewish. If testing is not covered by insurance, some laboratories offer self-pay options and payment plans. The cost could be as low as $250.
BRCA 1 and BRCA2 are genes which work to protect our bodies from tumor growth and cancer. They are known as tumor suppressor genes. Every individual has these genes. A harmful change (mutation) in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, as well as in other genes, can be inherited from our mother and/or our father. People with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene are at an increased risk to develop certain cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate, melanoma and pancreatic.
According to the National Cancer Institute, 12 percent of women (1 in 8) in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. The chance for a woman with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation to develop breast cancer by age 70 is between 45 and 65 percent. There are national recommendations for screening and prevention for individuals with a BRCA1 or BRCA 2 mutation.
Of course, your readers should consult their physicians regarding their own personal and/or family history for guidance whether genetic testing may be appropriate for them. Additionally, there are MD genetic specialists and genetic counselors in every state – see, for example, acmg.net and nsgc.org.