How to Decide When to Test for the Cancer Gene and When to have a Preventative Double Mastectomy

May 14, 2013, 18:48 ET from The University of Kansas Cancer Center

KANSAS CITY, Kan., May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Actress Angelina Jolie has sparked a national conversation after opting to undergo a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for the breast cancer gene.  Jolie's family history combined with her test results put her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer according to news reports.

"Personal and family history are the major determinants for genetic testing," said Jennifer Klemp, Ph.D, MPH, director, Breast Cancer Survivorship Center and a cancer risk genetic counselor at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.  "But, there are many factors to consider when assessing risk and determining who is a good candidate for testing and many more in deciding when to remove your breasts and ovaries."

Testing for breast cancer genes (BRCA 1 and 2) is essentially a DNA test (blood or spit that collects cheek cells) to determine if the patient carries a mutation that impacts cancer risk. A video explanation from Dr. Klemp is available at

The test costs just under $4,000 and is covered by most insurance companies as well as Medicaid and Medicare.  Additional tests of family members are $450 per person.  To learn more, visit

SOURCE The University of Kansas Cancer Center