If you have a history of cancer in your family, medical experts said you should be proactive rather than reactive.
“It's all about early detection,” Nancy Orr, a Nurse Practitioner for the Clinics of North Texas said.
This is why many clinics across Texoma offer a simple blood test, called the BRCA test, to check a woman's hereditary risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer. Orr said the test is key with ovarian cancer since there isn't an early detection test.
“It can save your life,” she said.
It can also help bring awareness to your family.
Orr said, “You have to be 18 before they do the testing.”
However, many people will wait until they are older since the risk of cancer increases with age.
“This is an evolving thing,” she said, “We know, we are learning more and more and more about how to manage this, how to treat this.”
If your test comes back negative, your risk is much less.
Orr said, “If you have this mutation you have an 87-percent risk of getting breast cancer sometime in your life and a 44-percent risk of getting ovarian cancer sometime in your life.”
However, you have a number of options moving forward.
“If you have this mutation, or you have this test run, nobody is saying you have to get your breasts removed,” she said.
Orr pointed out many women chose to just have closer surveillance. However, medical experts said going under the knife is the best option. If you do decide to have preventative surgery, you will reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by 90-percent. Your risk of ovarian cancer by 96-percent.
One of the concerns women have when getting their ovaries surgically removed is the risk of early menopause, but Orr said this is something women shouldn't fear.
“Everybody has to consider that risk on their own and like I said, for the most part symptoms can be managed very effectively,” she said.
She explained they will manage the patients estrogen levels.
With advances in technology and research treatments and tests have only become more accurate and the accuracy will continue to increase as time goes on.
“When we first started doing the testing all we did was the BRCA 1 and the BRCA 2, but now we have an expanded test that has 28 different genes,” Orr said.
So, if you have had the test done in the past, it is a good idea to talk to your health care provider to see if you should have expanded testing done.
She said, “We had a lady who tested negative for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 and then with the expanded test that we have now, she was actually BRCA positive.”
Experts said men should also get the test done if they have a family history of cancer.
As far as the cost, it is expensive. One medical expert said it costs nearly $3,000 without insurance. So, before taking the test, check with your insurance provider to see if they will cover it.