More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say
More women may benefit from gene testing for hereditary breast or ovarian cancer, especially if they've already survived cancer once, an influential health group recommended Tuesday.
At issue are genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. When they're mutated, the body can't repair damaged DNA as well, greatly increasing the chances of breast, ovarian and certain other cancers. Gene testing allows affected women to consider steps to lower their risk, such as when actress
Most cancer isn't caused by BRCA mutations — they account for 5% to 10% of breast cancers and 15% of ovarian cancers — so the gene tests aren't for everyone. But mutations cluster in families, and the
Tuesday, the task force expanded that advice, telling primary care doctors they should also assess women's risk if:
— They previously were treated for breast or other BRCA-related cancers including ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancers, and now are considered cancer-free.
— Their ancestry is prone to BRCA mutations, such as Ashkenazi Jewish women.
Why screen breast cancer survivors? After all, they already know there's a risk of recurrence.
Take, for example, someone who had a tumour removed in one breast in their 40s a decade ago, when genetic testing wasn't as common. Even this many years later, a BRCA test still could reveal if they're at risk for ovarian cancer — or at higher than usual risk for another tumour in their remaining breast tissue, explained task force member Dr.
"It's important to test those people now," Mangione said. "We need to get the word out to primary care doctors to do this assessment and to make the referrals."
Private insurers follow task force recommendations on what preventive care to cover, some at no out-of-pocket cost under rules from former President
Cancer groups have similar recommendations for BRCA testing, and increasingly urge that the newly diagnosed be tested, too, because the inherited risk can impact choices about surgery and other treatment.