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Best Tests December 2005

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Recommendations against routine BRCA testing

Women may request the test for breast cancer associated (BRCA) mutations as it becomes more widely known; recently there have been several articles in popular New Zealand women’s magazines. In New Zealand the tests are performed at Auckland Hospital. Because of the nature of the test, results take 6 months and costs $3000 per patient.
Recently the U.S Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has prepared guidelines around genetic testing for BRCA genes.

  • About 2% of women are at high risk for BRCA mutations, as determined by family history (i.e. 3 first or second degree relatives with breast cancer), and they should be referred for genetic counselling and evaluated for testing.
  • The USPSTF recommends against genetic counselling and testing for BRCA genes in women without family histories that suggest risk for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations; in this group the harms (e.g. prophylactic surgery) outweigh the benefits.

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