Tests aim to identify women at higher risk for breast cancer



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Posted on November 25, 2009 at 6:59 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Three small test kits and one big hope.

"I think it's going to take off and I think it's going to change the way that women go in for their yearly screening," said Dr. Lynn Canavan, Breast Surgeon at Baylor Regional Medical Center.

Latoyce Harvey is 35, with two children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I'm healthy otherwise - just this crazy incident," she said.

Latoyce took the traditional Brac-analysis blood test. It looks for two hereditary gene mutations found in 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers. Her results came back negative, but now there's a different kind of test that aims to help even more women find out if they're at risk.

"Literally the past two to three months is when we've started seeing these tests come available for any woman walking the street," said Dr. Canavan.

One’s called Decode - the other Onco-vue. They look for what are called gene “snips.“ Non-hereditary gene variations found more often in women with breast cancer. Both tests are quick and painless - one involves a swab of the inside of the cheek - the other just a swish of mouthwash that’s collected in a vial.

Dr. Canavan is one of a small number of doctors in the country offering Onco-vue to patients. She says the early research is promising: “We think by the statistics we have right now that we can identify 60 percent of women who would be at risk for getting breast cancer.“

Some doctors still question the effectiveness of the new tests - and they’re debating what to do with the results. Women found to be at higher risk can be monitored more often with mammograms, but should they also be given risk reducing drugs or even preventative mastectomies?

Latoyce Harvey hopes that over time the tests will help more women avoid what she’s been through.

All three tests must be ordered through a physician.