From ETMC Tyler
Sophisticated new BRCA genetic tests are available in East Texas for evaluating a patient's risk for cancers of the breast, ovaries and other sites.
The process starts with an exam at the ETMC Breast Care Center in Tyler or one of the center's satellite locations in East Texas. “We do a thorough assessment of their whole family cancer history as best they can recollect it,” said Dr. Michael Klouda, medical director of the ETMC Breast Care Center. “We then evaluate that, and if they meet certain criteria, we consult them on the fact that they would be eligible for genetic testing.”
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins to help ensure the cell's genetic stability. Genetic mutations of these genes are associated with an increased risk of cancer. With the patient's consent a saliva specimen is taken and sent to a testing lab, which extracts the DNA and tests for mutations on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Dr. Klouda helps patients interpret the test results in light of their family history. “If they have genetic testing and it's negative and yet they have a very suspicious family history,” Dr. Klouda explained, “that could mean there's still an elevated cancer risk. There may be a mutation in that family that we just don't know about yet.”
A positive test also can have a nuanced meaning. “It doesn't mean they're definitely going to develop breast cancer or ovarian cancer,” he said. “It does mean that over a period of the next 20, 30 years we can tell them perhaps they have an up to 88 percent chance at developing cancer.”
Men as well as women can develop breast cancer, and testing is entirely appropriate for men whose family history may indicate a possibility of elevated cancer risk.
Dr. Klouda said he collects demographic data on patients – height, weight, past use of hormone therapy, age of first menses and menopause – and plugs that information into a computer risk assessment model. This will help him counsel future patients as they weigh their risks for developing cancer.
For more information, contact the ETMC Breast Care Center at 903-596-3165.