Genetic testing breakthrough in fight against breast cancer
1 in 27 women is at risk for breast cancer and it is leading cancer affecting women in South Africa, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa).
University of Cambridge scientists have made a breakthrough, identifying 352 genetic mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer, in a study of 2000 people.
Health specialist at Cansa professor Michael Herbst discusses the findings with Nickolaus Bauer on The Midday Report.
Just how important is this study?
Herbst says recent research has increased the understanding of the genetic structure linked to cancer.
New scientific evidence that comes up practically every day emphasises more and more that is really the mutations of genes - and it depends which gene is mutated - that causes the different types of cancer.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations in relation to breast cancer have been understood for a while, he says.
He cites the example of actress Angelina Jolie who had genetic familial BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations leading to her decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy to protect herself from breast cancer.
Now, scientists have gone even further in this new study.
They have identified 352 gene mutations. And this seems like it is not the end of the story yet. There will most probably be more.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
This makes it really possible to identify women who are at greater risk of developing breast cancer. We must also not forget that men can also get breast cancer.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
But how accessible is this genetic testing for the ordinary South African?
Unfortunately, he says these breakthroughs are not filtering down to those in the public healthcare sector.
Genetic testing is very expensive in South Africa.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
Even some medical insurance will not cover these tests, he adds.
Genetic testing can cost anything up to R13,000 per test.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
Women must go for an annual mammogram and a clinical breast examination.
There is nothing as effective as a clinical breast examination to find tiny lumps - especially in women with dense breast tissue. mammograms may not even pick up these tiny lumps.Professor Michael Herbst, Head of Health - Cansa
Listen to the interview below:
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