DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Over the past decade, the phrases ‘BRCA 1’ and ‘BRCA 2’ went mainstream as genetic testing to assess  breast cancer risk became common.  But, now, doctors  are telling patients whose tests were negative to get retested.

“I think this is a game changer,” said Peter Beitsch, MD, a breast cancer specialist at Medical City Hospital in Dallas. “The BRCA 1 and 2 testing was a game changer.  This now goes from testing two genes to testing 18 genes.  This is big.”

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Julie Easty of Frisco underwent genetic testing after her older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.  “She said ‘I don’t want to see you go through what I’ve been through. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.’”  Her sister tested negative for both the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations—but, tested positive for a defect on another gene now referred to as ‘ATM.’

Easty’s genetic testing revealed that she shares that same mutation… increasing her breast cancer risk to as high as 70-percent.

“I wanted to know,” Easty said adamantly.  “I feel like that knowledge was power, because now I can consider my options.”

According to Dr. Beitsch, rapid advances in technology have reduced the cost of genetic testing  (from about $4,000 to test the two genes, to roughly $1,500 to test an expanded panel)  and also helped to identify more genes ties to increased cancer risk.

“Most women understand they have family histories, and it’s not even just for them.  They are worried about their daughters and their granddaughters—as well they should be.”

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Doctors say patients who test positive for genetic mutations tied to breast cancer have many options—from increased monitoring and more intensive imaging – breast MRIs instead of mammograms, for example — to preventative mastectomies.

Julie Easty opted for a preventative double mastectomy three weeks ago and says she feels great.  “I’ve reduced my breast cancer risk from 60-70-percent to 1-2-percent,” said the math teacher and coach.  “And there’s just no words to express how great that feels.  That fear is not completely wiped out.  But, for the most part, it is gone.”

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