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Genetic testing rises in young US breast cancer patients


A new study reveals that more than 95 percent of U.S. women diagnosed with cancer at age 40 or younger have got genetic testing for mutations that raise their risk of future cancers, Reuters reports.

The rate of genetic testing has risen from about 70 percent in 2007.

"The rates of testing in this population are probably higher than what you see in other populations, but it's still nice to see the improvement and more women having the opportunity to get tested," said senior author Dr. Ann H. Partridge of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston

"We were surprised at how high the rates were over the time period," Partridge told Reuters Health by phone.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that all women diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger should get tested to see if they have BRCA gene mutations.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data collected between 2006 and 2014 in a study of young women with breast cancer. The researchers looked at around 900 women age 40 and younger at 11 health centers across the country.

Overall, 87 percent of the women said they had been screened for BRCA mutations within one year of their diagnosis.

The study was published in JAMA Oncology.

In the current study, almost 30 percent of women said knowledge of their genetic risk influenced their treatment decisions in some way.

 "We know we can reduce morbidity and mortality if we have the knowledge," and there are few to no downsides of BRCA testing for younger women with breast cancer, said Dr. Jeffrey N. Weitzel of City of Hope cancer center in Duarte, California, who coauthored an editorial alongside the new results.

Weitzel told Reuters Health that BRCA testing was first commercially available in 1996, and its use has spread widely in 20 years,

 "The recommendations are to test every woman with breast cancer under 40 for sure," Partridge said, but a small minority of women in this study said they were never told about testing or were told it was not necessary for them. "That's clearly the fault of the system and the provider leading that charge," she added.

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