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Breast Cancer Gene Test Can Present Obstacles

There are women wondering if they should be tested for the same breast cancer gene mutation actress Angelina Jolie tested positive for, but the test is expensive, and some worry that without a defined cancer risk, the option Jolie chose might not be available.

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[Actress Angelina Jolie]

Oviedo resident Nancy Qualls' mother and an aunt both had breast cancer- so she knew she was at risk after a breast biopsy revealed suspicious cells. A genetic counsellor told her even though her mother’s risk of carrying the BRCA 1 and 2 mutation was too low for insurance to pay for the 3-thousand dollar test- her own risk was high enough to justify surgery.

“Surely insurance won’t pay for that, because I don’t have the positive gene, she said, 'are you kidding me, your risk factors are higher than people that have the positive gene.'  At that point, I said 'Oh my,'” said Qualls.

With a 60-percent risk of breast cancer, Quall’s insurance paid for her surgery, but it might not have paid for the genetic test. Myriad Genetics owns the test and a patent on the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, so it sets the price. MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando Breast Care Program Director Terry Mamounas said genetic testing could be cheaper.

 “Nowadays we can actually sequence the whole genome of a person for a lot less money than we do these tests, the technology is there now and it’s getting cheaper and cheaper,” he said.

Myriad Genetics  shares increased after Angelina Jolie’s announcement, but its patent on the BRCA 1 and 2 genes is  being challenged in the Supreme Court. 


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