New Breast Cancer prevention options is genetic testing right for you?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Since 1985, the U.S. has dedicated the month of October to a national focus on the screening, prevention and survivors of breast cancer. The increased focus on education, screening and lifestyle changes has been a critical tool in driving down both the number of deaths and new diagnoses of breast cancer.

Genetic testing has quickly become a more mainstream practice, both for human interest about one’s ancestry, and for the purpose of understanding how that ancestry might increase our risk for certain diseases. Recent medical news has focused on the BRCA genes and their role in increased cancer risks, and now there are affordable, at-home testing options for those with specific risk factors.

The two BRCA genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – normally help protect women from cancer. However, some women experience a mutation of these genes that can actually lead to cancer. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer, when compared with women without the gene mutations.

So, should all women be tested for the BRCA gene mutation? The experts say, absolutely not.

“It’s important to keep in mind that gene mutations are only a small part of the breast cancer story,” said Dr. Gilda Gomez, Oncologist/Hematologist on staff at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center. “It’s true that having an immediate family member with breast cancer can double your risk of being diagnosed. But it’s also true that more than 80% of women who get breast cancer have NO family history of the disease. There are many other factors, some inside and some outside of your control.”

Both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the medical community agree there are certain risk factors that indicate a woman should seek genetic counseling, and BRCA testing if recommended after counseling:

• A family history of someone having a positive BRCA mutation

• Ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancer at any age in a family member

• Breast cancer in a family member before the age of 50

• Triple-negative breast cancer before the age of 60

• Male breast cancer in any family member

• People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry

• Two or more family members with breast cancer, on either side of the family

Beyond BRCA genes, there are more than 30 gene mutations associated with various types of hereditary cancer. Tremendous information can be gained through genetic testing, but it’s important to work with your physician and/or a genetic counselor to ensure you pursue the right options for you.

“Genetic testing is exciting, but in no way does it reduce the need for vigilance on the more prevalent risk factors for cancer,” said Dr. Gomez. “A healthy, whole food diet, regular exercise, regular mammograms and a no-smoking policy, are still by far the most critical tools for preventing all forms of cancer. Genetic testing is another tool for early intervention and managing increased risk, and should be used judiciously.”

If you meet the criteria set by the USPSTF, talk with your doctor about the best prevention and genetic testing for you. For help finding a primary care physician or breast care specialist, contact 573-888-4522 or visit

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening mammograms for all women ages 40 and older. Women who may be at increased risk for breast cancer should talk with their health care provider about having their mammograms at an earlier age or more frequently.

The mammography department at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center offers digital mammography, technology that allows images to be magnified and adjusted on a computer screen for better visualization. The department is accredited by the American College of Radiology and is certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration. To schedule a mammogram at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center, call 573-888-8429.

About Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center

Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center is a fully licensed, 116-bed facility, committed to serving the healthcare needs of residents in Kennett, Dunklin County, and the surrounding areas.  The hospital offers an extensive range of services including inpatient and outpatient, medical, surgical, obstetric, behavioral health, diagnostic and emergency care as well as primary care and family care clinics.  A full continuum of care is provided to patients through a dedicated team of physicians, nurses, and staff.  Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center strives to exceed patient expectations, while delivering compassionate, safe, quality care.  For more information and a complete listing of services, please visit

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