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8:03 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Genetic testing can define risk

But it does not mean a patient will contract breast cancer

Ninety percent of breast cancer patients have no genetic components to their cancer, said YRMC BreastCare Center clinical navigator Julie Bender.

For those, however, with several generations of their family, usually mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and aunts, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, they might want to get a genetic screening just to determine their risk levels, Bender said.

At Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the breast care program offers genetic high-risk assessments and, if it seems warranted, referrals for testing will be forwarded to one of several different that perform those services.

Genetic testing can be expensive, as much as $2,000 to $3,000, and not all insurance companies will cover the costs.

Some companies do run specials at different times of the year so that the cost is only a few hundred dollars.

All women who come to the YRMC BreastCare Center for mammograms and other screenings are given a questionnaire related to family history, Bender said.

For those that may be considered higher risk will then be transferred to a nurse practitioner in the breast surgeons’ office who will then review mammograms and do a more thorough family history related to risk factors, she said.

Dr. Michael Macon, a breast surgeon and new YRMC medical director for the breast care program, said the high-risk assessment is not only confined to determining risk of breast cancer but for other cancers, such as ovarian and uterine cancers. Once a patient knows their risk,

Macon said better decisions can be made about how best to monitor for signs of cancer, or to proceed with some sort of treatment that can range from medication to surgery.

Macon said his caution to patients is not to over-interrupt genetic results. He does not want patients to make medical decisions rooted in fear rather than fact.

A genetic test may indicate a woman’s risk for breast cancer at 99 percent when the actual likelihood of her getting cancer is only 3 percent, he said.

“A gene mutation doesn’t mean you will get breast cancer,” Macon stated.

Often, Macon suggested, the best course of action for those deemed to be at a higher risk is more frequent monitoring, such as six-month interval MRI screens.

Yet he knows that for some women the anxiety over their risk factor may lead them to want to take preventative action because to do nothing would cause stress that would impede on their health and lifestyle, he said.

“It’s a matter of trying to figure out what each woman’s particular situation is and getting to a solution that works best for them,” Macon said.

See Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2017 headline index