Who Needs Breast Cancer Gene Testing

BRCA genetic testing for breast cancer risk still not recommended for most women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The risk of breast cancer can be such that women may have both breasts removed to avoid the possibility. Would genetic testing affect this decision?

The overwhelming  majority of women – about 90 percent – do not need to undergo genetic testing to assess breast cancer risks.

That’s why the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is still recommending that most women not have testing to look for mutations in the BRCA genes.

This report says women with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer should consider having genetic testing to look for mutations in the BRCA genes. Those without this family history should not undergo BCRA testing.

"Ask an oncologist about breast cancer risks."

The Task Force is providing an opportunity for public comment on this draft recommendation statement until April 29, 2013.

“Every year, too many American women and families are faced with the challenge of dealing with breast and ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Task Force chair Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH. “We need better treatments, better screening methods, and most importantly, better ways to prevent cancer.”

Women with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have five times greater risk of developing breast cancer than women without the altered genes. Ovarian cancer risks go from 2 percent in the general population to as high as 46 percent in women with BRCA mutations.

It’s known that 90 percent or more of women do not have these genetic conditions and therefore will not benefit from genetic testing that can cost as much as several thousand dollars.

Current testing often has inconclusive results that can leave women with a lifetime of worry about breast cancer. These are the women who may have double mastectomies (removal of both breasts), take medicines and live with the costly and life-changing side effects of those measures.

Christopher O. Ruud, MD, breast cancer specialist with Austin Cancer Centers, simplified the recommendation. “The US Preventive Services task force recommends review of family history of patients with breast and ovarian cancer. Those found to be suspicious should have BRCA testing,” Dr. Ruud told dailyRx News.

“We hope that further research into ways to use genomic science, such as identifying women who have harmful BRCA genes but do not have a family history of cancer, could improve screening practices and even prevent some cancers,” Dr. Moyer said.

Below is the link to the page where you can offer your comments on these recommendations.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 4, 2013
Last Updated:
April 6, 2013