The American Society of Breast Surgeons released new recommendations last Thursday that suggested genetic testing for inherited mutations should be offered to all breast cancer patients.
These recommendations are in somewhat of opposition with those offered by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), whose guidelines are looked to by doctors and insurers across the nation. The NCCN’s recommends that this kind of genetic testing is used for a select group of patients meeting certain age criteria and who have had a history with the disease in their family, but stops short of saying it should be offered to all patients.
Part of the hesitation on the part of the NCCN lies in the fact that it is not completely understood how several of the genes that are tested for are linked to breast cancer and what their role in its recurrence would be.
Walton Taylor, the president of the Breast Surgeons group defended the organization’s new guidelines. He said, “Too many patients develop cancers that might have been prevented or found earlier if genetic testing had been performed.”
Not everyone was convinced the new recommendation was a step in the right direction. Otis Brawley, a professor of oncology at John Hopkins University and a former top official with the American Cancer Society, had his doubts. Brawley stated, “Whether such an increase in screening would save lives is really an unknown. It is known it will increase costs. And it’s pretty assumable that it will increase the number of women who will get prophylactic surgery.”
As more is found out about the genetics behind breast cancer, the debate over whether genetic testing should be universally offered will continue.
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