New USPSTF recommendations on BRCA testing expand genetic testing for women

Published on August 22, 2019

Contact: Lisa Berry Edwards

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) this week released updated final recommendations for BRCA testing this week. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase a person’s risk for breast and several other types of cancer. According to the USPSTF, BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations account for 5%-10% of breast cancer cases and 15% of ovarian cancer cases.

The new recommendations give a “B” rating to giving a familial risk assessment to women with personal or family histories of breast, ovarian, Fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer. The risk assessment should also be given to those with “an ancestry associated with breast cancer susceptibility,” such as women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Those who have a positive result on the risk assessment tool should receive genetic counseling, and, if indicated after counseling, genetic testing. Private insurers are required to cover, with no co-pay, preventive services receiving an “A” or “B” rating from the USPSTF.

These updated recommendations expand the population eligible for BRCA screening. The previous guidelines recommended screening only for women with family histories of BRCA-related cancers. The current USPSTF guidance does not recommend women undergo risk assessment, genetic counseling or testing if they do not have a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, Fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer or ancestry associated with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations (“D” recommendation).

When women and their doctors have more information about their cancer risk, they are better prepared to make decisions about preventive services and care, which can include getting screened earlier or more often, taking certain risk-reducing medications or even undergoing prophylactic surgery.

With these new recommendations, more women will have access to risk assessment and genetic testing.

“By giving more women access to these important services, we can prevent more cancer cases or detect them early, when successful treatment is more likely,” said Carolyn Aldigé, founder and CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation®. “The Foundation supports the new recommendations and applauds the USPSTF for expanding access to genetic counseling and testing for women.”

For more information on breast cancer prevention and early detection, visit our breast cancer page.

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