Many factors influence breast cancer risk, including family history, hereditary cancer genes, and personal risk factors.
Today, with more celebrities like Angelina Jolie choosing to have genetic testing and to undergo preventive procedures based on these testing results, the public is gaining more awareness of hereditary cancer genes and lifetime breast cancer risk. Recently, the Breast Risk Management Program (BRMP) saw the 1,000th patient walk through the doors.
The BRMP was created in 2008 to help patients navigate through this information and provide accurate risk assessment for hereditary cancer genes and lifetime breast cancer risk tailored to each person as an individual.
Professionals like nurse Pamela Winter, RN, OCN, CBCN, and genetic counselor Lorrell White, MS, CGC, are trained to help individuals understand their hereditary and personal risk factors.
“There are known risk factors,” says Pam. “We look at family history and personal history factors such as hormonal history or history of breast biopsies, especially if atypical cells have been found. We enter this information into statistical models that combine these risk factors to provide a personalized plan of care.”
Lorrell looks at specific family history information to help individuals understand how likely there may be a hereditary component to the cancer in their family. She also discusses options for genetic testing since more information is discovered about hereditary cancer genes every year.
While the number of patients seen has remained stable, patients who choose testing has increased significantly, according to Pam. “Of the 1008 patients we’ve seen in the BRMP, 46.5 percent have chosen to proceed with genetic testing. Of those who tested, 14.5 percent have tested positive for a hereditary cancer gene,” said Pam.
Pam and Lorrell believe the increase in testing is not only due to an increased awareness in the general public but also to Federal protections such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) which prevents healthcare and employment discrimination based on genetic information.
The average cost for the genetic counseling consultation is about $150 and most insurance companies cover the service. Genetic testing is a separate charge that is usually covered for appropriate individuals. This information is discussed at each appointment.
Genetic testing requires a blood or saliva sample and results can take two to four weeks. If a hereditary cancer gene is discovered, Pam and Lorrell help individuals understand the options such as preventative screening, medications, and possible risk-reducing surgeries based on the specific gene.
Located in the Women’s Health Center, BRMP welcomes anyone who would like to discuss personal cancer risks. For more information, contact Pam at 901-226-0828 or Lorrell at 901-226-4038.