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Is There a Blood Test for Breast Cancer?

We hear a lot about new scientific discoveries every day in the fight against cancer, and most of them are positive, although pretty confusing.  One question is whether there is a blood test for breast cancer.  While there is no blood test to see if someone has a specific cancer per se, there are now several tests which help us in making the diagnosis, in following how patients respond to treatments, and in screening for relapses.  Some of these tests are used to screen people at high risk for cancer, but none are ready for prime time as a screening test for the general public.

But you may have heard of a blood test for breast cancer.  That test--called BRCA1 or BRCA2--is a blood test for the genetic changes which cause affected women to have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.  Women who  inherit these genes have a have a one in 2 chance of developing breast cancer as well as a greatly increased risk of ovarian cancer.  You may also pass these genes onto your children, but not every time. Researchers estimate that only 5-10% of breast cancers are due to these genetic changes.  Women who have a family history of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations or a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer should speak with a genetics counselor before requesting this test.

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Created: 1/15/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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