Personal Genetics & Breast Cancer

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When I was in the middle of chemotherapy for Stage 2 breast cancer in 2003, I heard about the Breast Cancer Gene test  (the BRCA test).  I asked if I could have the test done, since I had heard that being of Ashkenazi (European) Jewish decent was one of the identified risk factors for the disease (and I am 25% percent Jewish).  I was told no, because I already had the disease. In other words, I could get the test done if I was willing to pay for it on my own – but no insurance carrier would pay for it.  The cost of the test was $5000 then.  Needless to say, I didn’t do it, since I didn’t have $5000 that I didn’t know what to do with it.

Seven years after my diagnosis, my OB/GYN Dr. Warren Volker (who also happens to hold a PhD in Genetics Research) told me he was sure he could get the test paid for, since a lot had changed in genetics since I had been first diagnosed, and he would be able to justify the payment for the test.

He was right…I was able to get the test done at virtually no cost.  It’s an easy test. All they do is read some cells that have come loose in your saliva.  Fortunately, my test came back negative.  I am not a carrier of the BRCA gene.  That was good news for my long-term survivability, and also for my nieces, my closest blood female relatives.  It was great to be able to tell my brother that our family apparently did not have this gene in our bloodline and that he need not worry about his daughters, and their future probability of getting this disease.

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1 Comment

  1. I am very happy for you that you were able to get peace of mind. Your story is encouraging with regard to testing. Yes, saliva is becoming more popular in testing and does need to be perfected at the present time. I personally cannot wait for saliva tests to be developed as the diagnostic tool of choice. Not only will it be cheaper and better but best of all “no more needles”. I have not had many encounters with needles but I can tell you that there are phlebotomists who know what they are doing and then there are those who don’t. I have experienced unnecessary bruising and am sure many people have walked away with unnecessary bruising as well. Also, saliva is non-invasive – you spit into a tube or whatever it may be. It is so much cleaner – I can’t wait.

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