Genetic testing is a new and important field of medicine, making early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancer even more possible. Genetic testing can determine if a woman has the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutated genes, which put women at a much higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. This year, 234,580 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 40,030 will die from it.
As it it, most insurance policies do not cover preventive genetic testing or even mammograms, and will fight hard not to. Women who earn at or below 200% of the poverty level could qualify for Medicaid, but whether they can get testing is sporadic. Genetic testing sometimes changes a course of action, says Pam Anderson, cancer services coordinator for the Georgia Department of Community Health.
If a woman finds out she carries the mutated genes that put her at a higher risk for ovarian or breast cancer, she can be more aware of the situation she faces and it can make her doctor more aware of her risks. Testing can help them, together, to form a plan for prevention and early detection. She can also pass down that knowledge to her daughters so that they can be ready to take preventive measures.
“The issue that really we have is not so much the uninsured as the underinsured,” Anderson said. “There are still insurance companies out there that don’t pay for mammograms. There are people that have high deductibles and they have to meet their deductible first.”
In the case of the BRCA mutations, it is the increased risk of ovarian cancer that becomes critical, Anderson said. Ovarian cancer is apparently much more difficult to detect than breast cancer.
“That’s the scariest part to me,” she said.
Now, under the Affordable Care Act that took effect yesterday, preventive genetic testing will be more widely available to women, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Policies sold in the Affordable Care marketplace, or "exchange", must cover preventive services like this with no co-pay. This is good news at the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month!
Policies also have to cover mammograms for women over 40, as well as chemoprevention for women at a higher risk of breast cancer. Hopefully these new policies will help save lives and reduce the number of deaths for next year.
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