Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When Gene Tests for Breast Cancer Reveal Grim Data but No Guidance

Image result for breast cancer
This article discusses a real life situation about Angie Watts, 44. A genetic test showed she had inherited an alteration in a gene needed to repair DNA. Radiation breaks DNA, so the treatment might actually spur the growth of her cancer. He urged her not to take the risk and to have a double mastectomy instead. Shaken, Ms. Watts called Dr. James P. Evans, a professor of genetics and medicine at North Carolina. He told her the opposite: The mutation she had was not known to be harmful, so he urged her to go ahead with the radiation.

A group of doctors met but could not reach a consensus, so, Ms. Watts said, “they left it up to me to decide.” Ms. Watts’s experience highlights an unsettling side to the growing use of genetics in medicine, particularly breast cancer care. Doctors have long been tantalized by a future in which powerful methods of genetic testing would allow treatments to be tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup. Today, in breast cancer treatment, testing of tumors and healthy cells to look for mutations has become standard.The ambiguities and disappointments play out in two areas: There is genetic testing of patients to see if they inherited mutations that predisposed them to cancer, and there is genetic testing of cells from the cancer to look for mutations that drive the tumor’s growth.  However if found it often cannot be targeted by any drug on the market.

This article is very interesting to me because the ability to understand and interpret genetic tests needs to surely improve. It is scary to know to know that a simple test can leave patients with frightening information but no clear options or guidance for treatment decisions. Breast Cancer affects so many women AND men and a cure for it needs to be found soon.


  1. Breast Cancer is very severe and a person that has breast cancer should lay out all of their possible treatment options. I think it is best to be careful and know the ins and outs of each treatment. In Angie's case, she was given two completely different opinions on which treatment to do. I think what needs improvement is how the test are conducted so that there can be one treatment option that is recommended to the patient. This allows for less confusion and more guidance for the patient to have.

  2. By taking another class at Stockton called "Scientific Basis of Disease" I had learned that Breast Cancer is one of the few cancers that is mainly caused by the inheritance. One of my classmate who was 19 at the time had actually already been genetically tested to determine is she was at a larger risk of developing breast cancer since her mother suffered from the disease at the young 35 years old.