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Genetic counselor cautious about at-home breast cancer risk test

RICHMOND, Va. -- Genetic testing for your breast cancer risk can now be done from your own home.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved one company to do the testing, but some medical experts are warning users to be cautious.

“For most people, it’s not going to be a very helpful test if the main question is, 'Am I going to get breast cancer?'” said John Quillin, PhD, a genetic counselor at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

The genetic testing company, 23andMe, is getting a lot buzz especially after getting the green light from the FDA back in March.

The genetic test looks to identify high risk heredity cancer genes, BCRA 1 and BCRA 2, which are linked to ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Five to 10-percent of breast cancers are hereditary and a quarter of those are associated with BCRA 1 and BCRA 2.

“The genetic testing that it’s looking at would look for changes in genes that would have been inherited from birth,” said Quillin.

The 23andMe kit, which can be bought online or at a pharmacy, is simple to use. A person takes a saliva sample at home and then mail it off to the company lab to confirm the results.

Quillin believes the 23andMe kit is accurate, but said the concern is negative results could lead to false reassurance.

"If you were to get this testing and it was negative, which by and large most likely will result, you would still need to follow all those recommendations in terms of lifestyle choices -- screenings like mammograms,” Quillin said.

Quillin said if you're at risk of hereditary breast cancer, see a genetic counselor. VCU Massey Cancer Center has clinics around Richmond.

Click here for Quillin's more detailed perspective on the testing kit.

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

Reba Hollingsworth and Stephanie Rochon

On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.