Saturday, December 17, 2016

BRCA1 tests increase but results are questioned

Did Angelina Jolie op-ed in N.Y. Times help women find breast cancer gene mutations?

Angelina Jolie
Although celebrities can spur women to gather information about breast cancer, the question remains how valuable resultant data will turn out to be.

Angelina Jolie is a case in point.

According to a story by Carolyn Y. Johnson this week in The Washington Post, a new study published in the British Medical Journal has indicated that additional thousands of women in the United States were tested for breast cancer gene mutations right after the actress went public about her decision to get a double mastectomy.

Her choice was based on the fact that she had BRCA1, one of the mutations that increases chances of developing breast and ovarian cancers.

The Post piece noted that "testing rates increased 64 percent in the three weeks after Jolie's [op-ed in The New York Times went viral in 2013].

But that stat, based on research at Harvard Medical School, also showed it cost about $13.5 million to do the additional 4,500 genetic tests.

Unfortunately, researchers concluded, "mastectomy rates among women who had a genetic test actually declined after the [New York Times] piece was published, suggesting the women who got the tests done weren't as likely to have the mutation."

More information about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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