Have any of you seen the TV ads for the BRCA testing? I had read about it in a women’s magazine some time ago but just recently saw a commercial. I was really surprised that the testing company, Myiad, has been running the campaign for two years now considering it was the first one I’d ever seen. The commercial uses the accronym slogan, Be Ready Against Cancer, to stimulate the public’s awareness and curiosity about the test. According to the American Cancer Society, “this year nearly 180,000 women will learn they have breast cancer and more than 22,000 women will find out they have ovarian cancer. Of these women, up to 10 percent will have a hereditary risk, predisposing them to these diseases.”
The fact that they are running an ad campaign doesn’t necessarily mean that every woman should run out and get the BRCA test done nor do they need it. The BRCA is a blood test that checks for changes in the genes that control normal cell growth. These cell mutations known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 (a class of genes known as tumor suppressors), if found, can give insight into a woman’s chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
The BRCA is not a test to determine whether you have BC or OC. And, if you test positive, it doesn’t mean that you will develop cancer. On the other hand, if you test negative, it doesn’t mean that you won’t. Though the company has been marketing the test for over ten years, it’s still under scrutiny, and will likely undergo many changes and improvements in the coming years; nevertheless, at least millions of women are being made aware of the pre-screening options in this area, and it gets them thinking about women’s health issues. No harm done there, but do you really need it?
Some woman have chosen to give testimony about the BRCA saying it gave them the knowledge of their higher-than-normal risk and enabled them to start making some changes in their health and checking into medical options – not a bad thing for those who may be leading damaging lifestyles and need to start making better health choices.
Who Are They Recommending Get the BRCA?
Normally, The BRCA test is only done when the patients have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or if they have already been diagnosed with one type. In most cases this means if you have two first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, child) who have either of the cancers and three or more second-degree relatives with one or both of the diseases.
The test is also recommended by some experts for women Ashkenazi Jews (Jews whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe). They are considered high risk and should get tested if a parent, sibling, or child have either of the two types of cancers; testing is also recommended if two of any secondary relatives (grandparent, aunt,uncle, niece, nephew) are affected by the cancers.
The cost of a BRCA test can range anywhere from $300-$3,000 depending on whether you want the basic screening or the extensive one. And if your insurance company doesn’t cover it, you may have no choice but to go with the cheaper version or not get it at all. Is it worth it? I certainly can’t answer that for you. Only you and your health care provider can decide whether you really need the BRCA test and if the results will give you the peace of mind you may be looking for.
Regardless of what this test may or may not tell you about your BC and OC risk, all women over 40 should get an annual mammogram; every woman (18 and up) should do monthly breast self-examinations and get an annual pap smear– even those of you who don’t like doctors and hate the thought of spreading eagle in the stirrups or sticking your boobs in a big clampy thing. Just do it. If you don’t have medical insurance, these routine exams can be done at county health clinics and at Planned Parenthood inexpensively. No excuses.
If you have had the BRCA test done or are a BC or OC survivor and would like to share your experience, please leave a comment or contact Kellie Stone. Be well-be beautiful.
Photo by Primaleve