Breast Cancer. Two words that can change your world in an instant. Now genetic testing is allowing more people to know if they could possibly carry several of the nearly 180 genes that cause this type of cancer.
“People are really grateful to have been empowered by this information and now have the option to not get cancer in the first place. So it’s been a really positive experience for our clients,” said Jill Hagenkord, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Color.
I’m now one of those who decided to take charge using Color’s genetic testing option to see if I was positive for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutation. Years ago my Grandma Dot passed away from breast cancer. It was a devastating loss for our family. Now at the age of 32 I wanted to know if I had the chance to get it. That’s where Color came in to play. They offer an at home-test that anyone can buy, even if you don’t have insurance. Within a few weeks of sending in a saliva sample, my results were back. Negative. While relieved, I still didn’t know what it meant, so I talked with the company’s genetic counselor.
“Just because you are negative, doesn’t mean that if someone else in your family did the testing they wouldn’t come back positive with something that just didn’t get passed down to them,” Lauren Ryan, M.S., LCGC, Head of Clinical Genetics at Color.
Reassuring. But even still, I was encouraged to take my results to my own doctor, Dr. Donna Adams-Pickett of Augusta Women’s Health and Wellness Center.
“That’s great that your results were negative, but keep in mind that out of all the breast cancers diagnosed, that those with positive BRCA 1 and 2 mutations only account for 4.8% out of all the breast cancers. Which means there’s still a 96% chance of you detecting a breast cancer that does not have a genetic bases,” said Dr. Donna Adams-Pickett, Augusta Women’s Health and Wellness Center.
So while my test came back negative, what about those who test positive?
“Instead of waiting until the age of 40 to have annual mammograms, you would have between the ages of 30 and 40, an annual mammogram and an MRI. At the age of 40 you would alternate every 6 months between having a mammogram and an MRI,” said Dr. Adams-Pickett.
Some women opt for the prophylactic mastectomy where both breasts are removed, decreasing your chance of getting breast cancer by about 85 to 100%.
And while no test can guarantee you will or will not get cancer, it’s clear more people are taking advantage of this growing technology, allowing more people like myself to take charge of their health as early as possible.Jill Hagenkord, Color’s Chief Medical Officer talks more about what happens if you test positive as it pertains to insurance coverage.
Lauren Ryan, Head of Clinical Genetics at Color shares the 3 best “Next Steps” once you receive your results.