A new do-it-yourself test can help pinpoint breast cancer markers—news that comes on the heels of another report that finds women are rushed into decisions on breast cancer surgery.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today authorized 23andMe to market a direct-to-consumer test to report on three specific BRCA1/BRCA2 breast cancer gene mutations that are most common in Jewish people. These three mutations are not the most common BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations in the general population.
Using a saliva sample, the test can determine if a woman has an increased risk for ovarian or breast cancer (or if a man is at a higher risk for developing breast or prostate cancer). The test only detects three out of more than 1,000 known BRCA mutations, and has come under fire for a variety of reasons.
Knowing Your Surgical Options
Two recent studies found that breast cancer patients feel pressured to make treatment decisions. One survey of 487 women who underwent a lumpectomy, mastectomy or both procedures. Regarldess of which procedure they had, one in five said making a quick choice was more important than making an informed choice. In fact, 47 percent of lumpectomy patients, 67 percent of mastectomy patients, and 28 percent of women who had both procedures said they felt informed before they had the procedures.
“A breast cancer diagnosis can feel like an emergency when you are the patient,” Sunny Mitchell, a breast surgeon and lead author, said. “There is actually plenty of time to review all treatment options since survival rates are very high for early-stage breast cancer and do not change if a woman starts treatment within a few weeks.”
In another study, 227 newly diagnosed patients were assigned to use an online decision-making tool or to read materials on websites such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.
As a result of the information, half of the women scored at least 80 percent on a test of their knowledge on the disease and treatment options. And 72 percent of women who used the decision aid said they knew they had a few weeks to make a surgical choice without impacting their survival odds.