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Many women neglect important follow-up examinations for breast and ovarian cancer


Why is such an important test so often neglected?
When women have had breast or ovarian cancer, it is often unclear whether there is an increased risk of the dangerous diseases coming back. Researchers found that a simple genetic test can determine whether affected women with a previous cancer have a mutation that increases the likelihood of the cancer returning. The problem, however, is that most women affected never have such a test done.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) investigated the use of a genetic test that can detect a mutation in women that can lead to a return of the disease after breast cancer or ovaries. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.

Information about breast and ovarian cancer
Breast cancer mostly affects women and very rarely men. In western society, this form of the disease is the most common form of cancer in women. There is no cancer in women that leads to more deaths. The risk factors for breast cancer can be both hereditary and a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle. For its part, ovarian cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer. In addition, so-called ovarian cancer is often diagnosed far too late because there are no symptoms for a long time.

How many women carry such mutations?
Most women with breast or ovarian cancer are not given the opportunity to have an important genetic test done that can determine whether they carry an increased risk of the disease returning, the scientists say. According to the researchers, up to ten percent of women who have or have had breast cancer and up to 15 percent of those with a history of ovarian cancer carry the inheritable genetic mutations. These mutations indicate a higher risk of cancer return.

Most women never take the test
The mutation detection test actually only requires blood or saliva. However, the study found that 70 percent of breast cancer patients and 80 percent of ovarian cancer patients in the United States are eligible for such an examination, but have never had a test.

For example, testing can lead to lifestyle changes
In their study, the doctors tried to find out which women carry such a genetic change, explains author Dr. Christopher Childers. Such information makes it easier to make important treatment or surgery decisions. The test could also help identify cancer early and focus on lifestyle changes to prevent the disease from progressing.

Researchers survey over 47,000 subjects
For the study, more than 47,000 women were asked if they had taken such a test. This data was then used to assess why patients are often not sufficiently informed about the test in a conversation. Physicians and patients both need to make more efforts to close this information gap, the experts say. Doctors should inform women about their history of cancer and ask about previous genetic tests.

Test has been available for several years
Patients with a history of breast or ovarian cancer should ask their doctors about the genetic test, even if the condition was diagnosed many years ago. The mutations detected by the test can affect the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, the researchers explain. The tests for these mutations have been around since the mid-1990s, but science, test guidelines and test availability have developed significantly since then, the experts report. Some patients want to know the potential risks for themselves and their families so that they can take measures to prevent future cancers. Other people are more likely to have the attitude: ignorance is bliss, the authors say. (as)

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