Doctors Encourage Genetic Testing to Fight Breast Cancer

A debate is brewing over ways to prevent breast cancer.

Current guidelines discourage screening unless a woman has a cancer or a history of it. However, some doctors say all women over 30 should have genetic testing to determine their risk for breast cancer, even if they have no family history.

"If there is any suggestion the risk factor, like a family history or personal history of breast cancer at a particular age and ovarian cancer, then genetic testing is really the standard of care. We’re trying to figure out ways to make it more broadly available to the community," said Dr. Stephen Gruber, Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Julie Culver is a genetic counselor at USC’s Keck Medical Center. Culver said she has been genetic testing save lives, but adds that this kind of testing should be accompanied by counseling.

"The women who find out they have mutations are going to be in a situation where they need a lot of information about what they can do to protect themselves," Culver said.

For women who do have mutation, drastic surgery is not the only option.

"For women who do have a BRC1 and 2 mutation, we would recommend to do breast MRI screening in addition to mammography every year," Culver said. "We do not tell women that they need to get a bilateral mastectomy because screening works so well."

Dr. Gruber believes it won’t be long before genetic testing becomes more widely available. He adds that it’s best to talk to your doctor to decide the best course of action.

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