More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

This undated fluorescence-coloured microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. (Ewa Krawczyk/National Cancer Institute via AP)

This undated fluorescence-coloured microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. (Ewa Krawczyk/National Cancer Institute via AP)

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 Angelina Jolie underwent a preventive mastectomy several years ago.

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 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has long recommended that doctors screen women who have relatives with BRCA-related cancers and refer those who might benefit from gene testing to a genetic counsellor to help them decide.

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.

READ MORE: B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment

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. Carol Mangione of the University of California, Los Angeles. And it could alert their daughters or other relatives to a potential shared risk.

“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 Barack Obama’s health care law. The recommendations were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

RELATED: Breast cancer survivor collects famous bands’ guitar strings for charity

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.

Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gas prices take a hike in Vernon on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Gas going up in Vernon

Prices jumping more than 10 cents at some stations

RCMP are investigating after a witness reported seeing two individuals breaking into and removing items from a mailbox in Armstrong Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Thieves break into, steal items from Armstrong mailbox

Police investigating after items were taken from a community mailbox on Van Kleeck Avenue Thursday

Tim Hortons in Lake Country banded together to help raise more than $4,700 for the local food bank through its Smile Cookie campaign. (Photo submitted)
Lake Country Tim Hortons brings smiles to food bank

Annual Smile Cookie campaign raises $4,735

RCMP searched for a suspect in Polson Park following an assault on a woman Thursday, Nov. 26. (Morning Star file photo)
Public warned after woman assaulted in Vernon’s Polson Park

RCMP on the hunt for suspect, described as in his 30’s

The resident relations coordinator of Heaton Place Retirement Community in Armstrong, Carrie O’Neill, explores the power of storytelling in her latest column. (Contributed)
Benefits of storytelling boost quality of life for Armstrong seniors

Heaton Place resident relations coordinator looks at the benefits sharing seniors’ stories has

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna firefighters on scene of an apartment fire on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Firefighters tend to apartment blaze along Gordon Drive

Two dogs were found safe inside the unit

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week (Nov. 23) at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Entire gym class at northern B.C. high school isolating after confirmed COVID case

Contact tracing by Interior Health led to the quarantine

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, B.C. couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Most Read