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YOUR HEALTH: An at-home cancer test that's calming nerves

It's an initiative that can help women determine their cancer risk early on

SEATTLE — Research suggests some women have inherited genes that put them at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Could those genes be detected and used as an early warning sign for women?

Adriana Hutchings thinks so.

She is putting the pieces of her life back together.

"Myself, I'm a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer."

But Adriana got some more troubling news.

"Because of my thyroid cancer, I have higher chances of certain breast cancers."

She also has a long family history of cancer.

"My mom and dad both died of cancer and my aunt had ovarian cancer and breast cancer twice." 

Adriana was determined to know her genetic cancer risks, so she signed up to take part in the Magenta trial. 

One of the goals is to make genetic testing accessible to everyone by providing at-home testing kits.

"I think it's particularly apt now, as we're thinking about ways to deliver healthcare to people in their homes," said University of Washington School of Medicine professor Dr. Elizabeth Swisher.

Participants are delivered a test kit where they provide a spit sample. 

The sample is then screened for breast and ovarian gene mutations. 

The participants got their result with or without counseling.

"We found out that women who had less counseling, before the tests that they had, had less distress and a higher rate of completion of the testing," said Dr. Swisher.

Adriana says completing the test was really simple and when she got her results back...

"I turned out to be negative for the BRCA gene, which was, of course, a huge relief. And it makes me feel a lot more confident about my future."

Even though the study found that patients received no increased anxiety skipping counseling, the team did provide counseling to anyone whose genetic test came back positive. 

Dr. Swisher said multiple doctors visits, counseling sessions, and blood draws, do deter people from getting genetically tested for cancer gene mutations. 

Eliminating these unnecessary steps can provide more people the opportunity to get tested and catch cancer early.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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