Affordable Testing For Those At Higher Risk Of Breast Cancer

Until now genetic testing could cost as much as $2000.

13/10/2016 5:33 AM AEDT | Updated 13/10/2016 5:33 AM AEDT
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As well as testing for BRAC1 and BRCA2 mutations, the new genetic testing grant program will analyse up to 30 gene types linked to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

In 2013 Angelina Jolie made headlines for revealing her BRCA1 status and as a result opted for a double mastectomy. Since then it has been reported that wait times for genetic counselling have skyrocketed.

Aussie women and men at increased risk of breast cancer (and women ovarian cancer) have, until now, had to undergo genetic testing to the cost of around $2000, though today Pink Hope announced it's Genetic Testing Grants Program which aims to offer affordable testing at around $200.

The first not-for-profit program of its kind in Australia, the grants program offers a discount of up to 90 percent and it is understood that the Pink Hope program is the most affordable in Australia.

Currently, publicly funded genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes is available within the health system, to those at high risk and who meet certain criteria. A person being tested must have more than a 20 percent likelihood of a gene mutation or have a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer and have a 10 percent likelihood of a gene mutation, as assessed by a genetic counsellor. Those who do not meet this criteria can still be tested, but must pay for it at a cost of anywhere between $800 and $2000.

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Since Angelina Jolie announced her BRCA1 status, wait times for genetic counselling have skyrocketed.

At first, the Pink Hope Genetic Testing Grants Program aims to help those who are at moderate to high risk who have just missed out on accessing free genetic testing through the public system, providing them access to private genetic testing at an affordable price.

Krystal Barter, founder of Pink Hope, who at 22 years of age underwent genetic testing and a subsequent preventative double mastectomy said the organisation's program will hopefully address the current pressures faced by Australia's public Familial Cancer Centres.

"Our public system is under increasing pressure to meet the demand for genetic counselling, which soared after Angelina Jolie told the world of her decision to have her breasts and ovaries removed after finding out she had the BRCA1 gene mutation. "Through her story, women and men felt empowered to take control of their future and take preventative measures to save their lives," Barter said in a brand statement.

"However, wait lists for genetic counselling have been inundated, with some up to 12 months long, and as long as two years in regional centres. Further support and resources need to be directed to this in demand area of healthcare," Barter said.

As part of the program Pink Hope is partnering with U.S. organisation 'Barbells for Boobs' who is providing the funding support to those women in need, and who wish to access genetic testing, via the grant system.

Research from Queensland health showed that in the last 10 years the number of women undergoing breast surgery who do not have cancer or have not had a diagnosis increased 876 per cent.

Pink Hope's Genetic Testing Grants Program will be available to Australians from November 2016, accessed and purchased online, following a consultation with a genetic counsellor or qualified healthcare professional.

The genetic testing kit, being provided by U.S. organisation Colour Genomics will provide an analysis of 30 genes (including BRCA1 and BRCA2) associated with an increased risk for the most common hereditary cancers, including breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. After the testing kit is received, further to being requested by a physician, all that is required is a simple saliva sample -- provided at home, or within clinic -- before the kit is returned to Colour Genomics.

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