Genetic tests reveal cancer chances

Jackie Sturkie, who's battled breast cancer, applauded Angelina Jolie's decision for a preventative double mastectomy, May 14, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Jackie Sturkie, who's battled breast cancer, applauded Angelina Jolie's decision for a preventative double mastectomy, May 14, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) —  The genetic testing that showed Angelina Jolie had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer is available in the Pacific Northwest.

But it’s not cheap: it costs $3,800.

“If you don’t have insurance to cover, it’s not affordable at all,” said Paul Dorsey, a genetic counselor at Legacy Cancer Institute. “So if your insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s going to be hard to come up with that kind of money.”

Insurance policies may cover everything but $300 for those with immediate risk. The cost can be as low as $400 for family members following a physician referral, according a Portland man who took the “BRCA1” and “BRCA2” mutations test at his local oncologist’s office.

Through that mouth-swab DNA test, he discovered he had a 1 in 16 chance of getting breast cancer. That’s up from the men’s average of 1 in 1,000.

Other resources also can help with cost.

At Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in northwest Portland, Dorsey sees patients who’ve undergone Hughes’ Risk Assessment Testing. “Screenings” are offered to everyone who comes in to get a mammogram.

Patients are asked a series of questions, from family history to the number of alcoholic drinks consumed in a week. The test then narrows down who is at high risk.

Dorsey said many major insurance companies are paying for the testing. There also are “hardship programs” at Legacy and grants offered by the Susan G. Komen organization to pay for it.

Related resources:

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