Study: Increased genetic testing in young breast cancer patients

February 16, 2016 | by Valerie Howard

More young breast cancer patients are relying on genetic testing to make informed surgical decisions. According to a new study, published online in JAMA Oncology, nearly all women under 40 years old surveyed in 2013, had undergone BRCA testing within a year of a breast cancer diagnosis, with the vast majority of those who tested positive opting for a double-mastectomy.

“To see an uptake of 86 percent in BRCA testing is very encouraging,” said Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics at City of Hope in a recent interview for MedPage Today, adding that BRCA testing should ideally include genetic counseling, a service City of Hope provides

Weitzel, who co-authored an editorial published with the study, noted that women who carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have a high risk of developing a second cancer in the other breast, and that many undergo double-mastectomy as a preventative measure. 

The study also showed a trend Weitzel called “worrisome”: More than half of the women who tested negative for the mutation had also opted for the surgery, despite the lower risk of developing a second cancer.

Even with this trend, researchers are pleased with the findings, which affirm the increased reach, and broadening acceptance, of genetic testing for cancer risk.

Learn more about the study's findings, strengths and impact in Weitzel's video interview with MedPage Today

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