Two thousand women in Mississippi will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Genetic tests are now being used to see if someone is at higher risk of developing breast and other cancers. MPB’s Evelina Burnett looks at who should be tested, and why.
Suzanne Griffin of Vancleave was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, when she was 35 years old. She had the genetic screening about 2 years ago and tested positive for the gene mutation that's been linked to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
"It's going to give me an opportunity to take better care of myself and take the different precautions to prevent, because that's what it's all about, preventing. And in the future, my children and their children can be tested and be aware and have some kind of prevention (for) breast cancer and ovarian cancer in general."
Maggie Clarkson, with the Regional Cancer Center at Singing River Health System, says if the genetic test is positive, there are many options. They range from regular screenings to medication and surgery, such as the double mastectomy movie star Angelina Jolie did last year after testing positive for the gene mutation. Clarkson says family history, on both your mother and father's side, is key to figuring out whether you should get a genetic screening.
"If you have a family history, say your mom or grandmom or aunt, had a breast cancer and it was diagnosed usually before the age of 60, you are at an increased risk. And that's what we're looking for, is that family history of a first or second-degree relative. But we're also looking at the age that a person comes in with her diagnosis."
Regular mammograms and other screenings remain important, though, because the majority of breast cancers are not genetic. The CDC says about 3% of breast cancers are caused by inherited mutations.
More information about genetic screening from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/features/hereditarycancer/