Sunday, March 13, 2016

Genetic Testing Is Ahead of Treatment Options

Genetic testing has been researched like mad in recent years. Breast cancer genetic testing is no different than that the rest of genetic testing. But treatment options are not right up there with the testing results.

When this mother found out she had breast cancer she went for a lumpectomy to be followed by radiation and that would be it. But then she went back to her doctor to discuss radiation. More genetic testing had been done and she had inherited an alteration to a gene that is needed to repair DNA. And if radiation breaks DNA so it might be better for her to skip radiation and have a double mastectomy instead.

So she talked to a professor of genetics and medicine who said that information was wrong and she should be able to go ahead as originally planned. Then a group of doctors met and couldn't reach a consensus so they left the decision up to her on what to do.

I am so glad I am not in this woman's shoes. That would be a horrible decision to be forced to make. Which option would be better? Or which might lead her to a quicker death? I could not imagine the emotional stress.

And this shows a real problem that I had thought might be lurking in the background of progress. I have long been nervous iffy edgy unsure about the fast pace of research in some areas and the slower pace of advancements in other areas would be gaps that would leave the patient over a barrel so to speak. Some research takes longer than others to complete for a start and some times it takes longer to get to the starting point.

Perhaps we might need a bit more coordination here to lessen these gaps. But since we can't undo time, here lies the question: if research has lead us to the discovery of this new gene and how it might potentially impact a patient's tolerance of treatment, should the patient even be told about the gene? Since there is no research showing how it might or might not impact the success or risk of radiation treatment, how is a patient supposed to react?

I just think its blatantly unfair for a doctor to tell a patient that you have this gene that might or might not impact your course of treatment and we have no options to give you so you have to figure it out on your own. I would start by getting a new doctor who would provide guidance and reassurance to help make the patient feel confident that she is making a good decision.

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