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Would BRCA testing result in earlier breast cancer detection?

May 24, 2013 | Failure to Diagnose

New York City women will agree that the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better. Early diagnosis means treatment can start right away, which in the long run can mean less invasive surgeries and less aggressive forms of chemotherapy than if a diagnosis is delayed.

In light of Angelina Jolie opting to get a double mastectomy, one has to wonder if more were women opting to get tested for the presence of mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, if this could result in earlier detections and a decrease in the number of women who are misdiagnosed and have to go through the sometimes fatal possibility of delayed diagnosis.

For Jolie, she decided to get a double mastectomy after genetic testing showed the presence of mutations. Rather than waiting to see if she would eventually be diagnosed with cancer, she chose to go the route of surgery.

Surgery is one of three treatment options when it comes to testing positive for the BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes. Others have chosen to take breast cancer medicines as a precaution, while others decide to increase the number of mammograms and ultrasounds, hoping to catch the cancer at its earliest stages.

However, it should be noted that Jolie even being able to get the genetic testing done is something that not all women are able to do. Typically, the BRCA test costs around $2,000 and many insurance companies will not pay for it. This means those with a family history of cancer, or those just with general concerns, would need to pay out of pocket.

This cost is why many just rely on the expertise of their doctors to know if something is alarming. However, this can be problematic when a doctor misidentifies or ignores a lump or a mammogram is misread.

In cases where it is believed an error led to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, there are still options available in order to hold the medical professional accountable. Of course this will not turn back time for those who did not receive a timely diagnosis, but a lawsuit can result in compensation for medical expenses and the pain and suffering often associated with a delayed diagnosis.

Source: Fox News, "Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy highlights need for less barriers to genetic testing," Manny Alvarez, May 14, 2013