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Genetic testing may predict if a person will get breast cancer. But the slim chance of positive results means the tests are only intended for a few. And while not everyone wants to know their medical future, Eye on Health spoke with a local woman who does.
Las Vegas resident, Christine Vaughn had just turned 40 when she decided to have her first mammogram. She was shocked when the results came back positive.
"You know, I always said it would be a supreme irony of my life for a flat-chested woman to have breast cancer in the first place. You just kind of assume that if you've been healthy all your life and you don't have any history in your family that you know about, that it will be OK," she said.
But the surprises didn't stop there. Vaughn's mother would be diagnosed with breast cancer, as well. And now they hope to find out through genetic testing, if their family's next generation is at risk.
"It may mean -- it will mean -- that my daughter, who's now nine, is tested much earlier than I was at age 40," said Vaughn.
Vaughn's mother went first because her insurance covers the expensive testing. They're now awaiting her results.
Las Vegas oncologist, Heather Allen says there are several accurate means of testing for genetic mutations -- which could predispose someone to cancer.
A number of factors determine if someone is a candidate for genetic testing, including family history and how well prepared they are for a glimpse of the future.
"And those psycho-social issues are very important to take into consideration and to counsel people about. Because they're worried about -- are they going to face insurance discrimination, job discrimination. Or just what the impact of having that information might mean for them," said Dr. Allen.
Vaughn says if there does prove to be a strong genetic link to breast cancer in her family, she does not expect difficult decisions to get any easier.
"Does it force choices about family planning? Do you decide to have children if you think you might pass on this genetic link?" asked Vaughn.
Dr. Allen cautions that only 5-percent of breast cancers have a hereditary basis. And for that reason, testing is not recommended without red flags calling for it.
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