New genetic test helps find out high risk breast cancer patients, reduce mastectomy a third

A blood and saliva test, conducted by a team in Manchester, finds 18 genetic variations which are known to affect the opportunity of an individual developing breast cancer.

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The test can predict more accurately how a woman develops breast cancer and soon be available to those high-risk groups.

Women who have high-risk breast cancer genes now usually choose to do mastectomy to prevent the development of the cancer. 

However, the test can further narrow down the risk level and allow women to make their own choices with more consolidated knowledge.

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Cancer charities have appreciated the process and voiced their joy over the "more tailored method" of cancer screening.

It is now known that BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can highly increase women's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) will be the first organisation to provide the test for women to find if they have these two genes.

The DNA of 451 women, who had developed breast cancer with a family history of the disease, are analysed in the study by researchers at MFT and the University of Manchester. 

The data was used along with other factors to predict the risk of each woman.

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Preventative breast-removal surgery is actually not recommended because many of the women classified by doctors as being in the high-risk category were reclassified to the lower risk group. 

The study can help reduce the number of women with the mutations to do a mastectomy, from 50 per cent to 36 per cent.

Lead researcher Professor Gareth Evans, a medical genetics expert at the University of Manchester, said: "This new test will help women at risk of familial breast cancer to make more informed decisions about their care."

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"BRCA1 and BRCA2 are just part of what we should be looking for when assessing risk and ... we plan to incorporate screening for these new genetic markers in clinical practice within the next six months."

Lester Barr, of the Prevent Breast Cancer charity, which partly funded the research, also said, "With more accurate genetic testing, we can better predict a woman's risk of developing the disease and therefore offer the appropriate advice ... rather than a 'one size fits all' approach. 

It's this more tailored method that will help us on our mission to protect future generations."