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Learn about 'Angelina Jolie' genetic test for breast cancer risk

Posted on May. 14, 2013 ( comments)

A genetic test that helped Angelina Jolie opt for a preventive double mastectomy can be ordered locally through the MultiCare Genomics Institute and the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center.

“I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience,” Jolie wrote in a column published today in The New York Times. “Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.”

MultiCare orders about 10 of the BRCA blood tests every month, said Dr. Michael Raff, medical director of the MultiCare Genomics Institute.

Women and men who are curious about the BRCA test can call 253-403-7397, or ask their primary care provider for a referral to the Cancer Genetics Clinic at the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center.

“They meet with me and genetic counselor Julie Simon to discuss the pros and cons of testing, and learn what questions it can answer and what questions it can’t,” Dr. Raff said Tuesday.

MultiCare can also help people find out whether their insurance covers any portion of the test.

A blood draw is done locally in a lab, then results are shared two to four weeks later during a follow-up appointment with Dr. Raff and genetic counselor Julie Simon.

The actress opted for a double mastectomy after her doctors found a “faulty” BRCA-1 gene and estimated she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer. (Jolie’s mother died at age 56 after almost 10 years with cancer.)

The BRCA blood test looks at the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, and looks for mutations or changes on those genes that would predispose women or men to developing breast cancer. About 5 percent of all breast cancers are because of a mutation like this. A BRCA gene mutation is also linked to ovarian cancer and colon cancer.

“I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer,” Jolie wrote. “It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”

The actual genetic testing work is performed by only one lab in the United States, Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City, which holds patents on the BRCA genes. (That case is before the Supreme Court.) The test costs more than $3,000, though Myriad says the typical patient pays only about $100.

For more information, call 253-403-7397 or talk with a primary-care provider.

Posted in: Cancer

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