Bay Area company launches new affordable breast cancer exam

BURLINGAME, Calif. (KGO) -- A new genetic test for breast cancer may change the way millions of women are screened. A Bay Area company launched the test on Tuesday at a fraction of the cost compared to other conventional tests, which will make it more affordable to low-income women.

By making it cheaper, the hope is that more women, especially those without insurance, will now be able to afford it.

It was actress Angelina Jolie who took genetic testing to determine she was at high risk for breast cancer, but not everyone can afford a $4,000 test.

The box is priced at $249. The Burlingame company that makes what's inside, Color Genomics, uses high speed computation of genetic data to tell women if they are at risk for breast and ovarian cancer. "Clearly that adds to accessibility and insurance companies will want to look at that. Individuals who want to test outside of insurance or whose insurance doesn't cover it will have that opportunity," said Lee-May Chen, a UCSF professor of obstetrics & gynecology.

The test analyzes 19 genes including the much talked about, BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes. The sample is then mailed back to Color Genomics to be analyzed.

The watchdog organization Breast Cancer Action believes not all testing is necessarily good testing and points to flaws in previous direct-to consumer genetic testing. "What the government accountability office found is they could send the same spit samples from the same people to different labs and get different results," Breast Cancer Action spokesperson Karuna Jaggar said.

Still, doctors think the information gathered will be valuable for future research. "The hope is that by logging that variants and having that information available that we get a better understanding of what genetic abnormalities cause cancer," Chen said.

The test must be ordered by your doctor.
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