From November 1, women who have a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer can now receive free BRCA genetic testing. Originally costing between $600 to $2000, the Medical Services Advisory Committee have decided to list the test on the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
This is a major step forward and a long time coming for Australian women. According to the Women’s Cancer Foundation, 2 out of 3 women diagnosed will die from ovarian cancer while Breast Cancer Network Australia states that an average of 48 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers, accounting for about 20 to 25 percent of hereditary breast cancers and about 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. In addition, mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for around 15 percent of ovarian cancers overall.”
“A harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s mother or father. Each child of a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes has a 50 percent chance (or 1 chance in 2) of inheriting the mutation.”
Increased access to the testing will allow early prevention and management of the disease. Women who have a family history of cancer and who could be at high risk of the mutation will be able to take the next steps in changing their lifestyles to avoid the disease.
As we are coming to the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month it doesn’t mean that the awareness stops here. Whether you have the mutation or not, it is always wise to be self aware of your body and to have regular check ups. Familiarise yourself with the look and feel of your own breasts to see if any changes have occurred over time. Schedule mammograms, pap smears and general gynaecological check ups to avoid both breast and ovarian cancers.
To find out whether you may be at risk click here
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