Genetic Testing Helps Breast Cancer Patients

Women with an increased chance of disease have more surgical options

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MONDAY, Dec. 29, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Genetic cancer risk assessment can help women with breast cancer make smarter decisions about their surgical options, say researchers at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

They found women who have a high genetic chance of getting breast cancer will opt to have both breasts removed during their cancer treatment, as opposed to just the affected breast. Their report appears in the December issue of the Archives of Surgery.

In the study, seven women out of a group of 37 breast cancer sufferers were found to have a genetic mutation that gave them a 50 percent chance of developing another breast cancer over their lifetime.

Such genetic screenings usually are performed after a woman has undergone a mastectomy of the cancerous breast. Only about 46 percent of women informed of a genetic predisposition to cancer will return to the operating table for a preventative mastectomy of the second breast.

But all seven who received the screening beforehand decided to have preventative mastectomy performed on the second breast at the same time that the first breast was removed, says Dr. Jeffrey Weitzel, director of the cancer center's department of clinical genetics.

"It's clear that women are taking advantage of this information when it is offered at the time of diagnosis," Weitzel says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the City of Hope Cancer Center.

SOURCE: Archives of Surgery, news release, December 2003

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