May 14, 2013 7:19 PM by Allison Bourne-Vanneck

Genetic Testing For Breast Cancer

       A rare gene that greatly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer is in the spotlight today.

The reason --- a stunning announcement from oscar winning actress Angelina Jolie. She underwent a preventative double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in the past several weeks. Jolie says she discovered she had a rare gene that meant her chances of developing breast cancer were 87 percent higher than average. Her risk of breast cancer is now less than five percent.

Doctors say that genetic testing for breast cancer is on the rise in Lafayette.

"I have a lot of patients that are very high risk, and a lot of women who don't even know they're high risk," Dr. Reatha Williams said. She does genetic testing for breast cancer at Women's and Children's Hospital.

"If they're high risk, they go into our high risk program where we do determine whether they meet the criteria for BRACA testing. If they do then they are in need for a blood test, and we have a laboratory here that does that, usually takes about two weeks to get back a result. And then we actually sit down and do genetic counseling with them," Dr. Williams said.

We all carry BRACA genes. But having what's called a "faulty" BRACA gene, Dr. Williams says, increases your chances of breast cancer by about 90 percent. One recommendation for women who test positive for a faulty BRACA gene is having a preventative mastectomy.

"But there are other options, there are medications that can be given that can protect the breast, so that is one option. Another option is just increased surveillance, and finding the breast cancer early," Dr. Williams said.

Experts like Dr. Williams say not everyone needs to get genetic testing when it comes to breast cancer. But if you have a family history, it's more important than ever to get checked out.

"I think we can prevent breast cancer in a lot of these women, and they may not even know that. And we're here for them to be able to talk to about this, and try to make some of these tough decision," Dr. Williams said.



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