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The Future of Breast Cancer Screening

An array of high-tech detection techniques and devices is on the scientific horizon.

How Better Screening Helps High-Risk Women continued...

In the early 1990s, it was found that women with certain mutated genes -- BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- tend to have a 50% to 85% risk of developing breast cancer.

Since then, the issue of genetic testing has been controversial. Some people say the presence of the mutated gene does not necessarily mean a woman will develop breast cancer, so a positive result could cause unwarranted concern. Plus, these genes account for relatively few cases of breast cancer. Also, there is fear that insurance companies and employers could discriminate against women who have the mutation.

Women who do decide to go through with genetic testing are advised to first undergo genetic counseling to help them deal with the information, and decide what to do about it.

Better technology for early detection could help women at high risk tremendously, says Judy Garber, MD, director of cancer risk and prevention at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

"Instead of deciding at 30 to have your breasts removed because you might get breast cancer sometime in the next 50 years, maybe you could wait until you're 60, after you've had your children and you've gone through your life."

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