Awareness of genetic testing saves lives

Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be scary and uncertain. As a member of the Assembly Health Committee, I am seeking ways to improve access to new and innovative treatments, cures and therapies to prevent diseases and save lives.

This session I introduced Assembly Bill 1386, establishing a women’s health pilot program to raise awareness of genetic testing for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes in newly diagnosed patients; many of whom are not given the information. Breast and ovarian cancer are among the leading causes of cancer deaths for women in the United States. If a genetic test is appropriate, the results can clarify the type of treatment needed so that the patient has a better chance of a successful outcome.

BRCA genes, which pass from parent to child, help a cell’s genetic material to function properly. However, mutations in BRCA genes can occur, which severely increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Women at high risk for having a BRCA mutation or who are newly diagnosed often don’t get genetic testing or the chance to speak with a genetic counselor to help them weigh the necessity of a test. Women in underserved communities are even less likely to get genetic counseling and testing. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80.9 percent of high-risk patients wanted testing, but only 39.6 percent received counseling and only 50.9 percent of these have actually had a genetic test.

AB 1386 will promote genetic testing through public awareness aimed at newly diagnosed women in underserved communities, including those on Medi-Cal or who have limited access to health insurance. Through early detection, taxpayer costs will be significantly reduced, and most importantly, lives will be saved.

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