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At-Home Test Can Help Determine Breast Cancer Risk

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in the course of her lifetime. But what if you could take a test in the privacy of your home that would tell you the likelihood of YOU being that one?

The company Color is offering a test for the BRCA gene that you can do yourself.

"The BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that lead to a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer," Dr. Jane Raymond, with the Allegheny Health Network, said. "They run in families."

The at-home test is simple. You put saliva in the tube, seal it up and send if off. The results will take several weeks.

The introductory kit costs about $99. But will it replace the more traditional form of genetic testing that can cost hundreds? There are some things to consider, according to Dr. Raymond.

"The downside is that getting the results is only part of the process," she said. "You really need to be able to put it in context."

How do you know if the at-home test is for you? It may depend your overall risk for breast or ovarian cancers. A risk assessment from your doctor or even an online site is a good way to start.

"That tool is going to ask five to eight questions depending on the specific tool which will try to assess your particular likelihood for having a mutation on one of the BRCA genes," Dr. Mylynda Massart, of UPMC, said.

That assessment looks at things like family history -- both male and female, age, and a variety of other factors. The result will determine if you are at low, medium or high risk.

Once you know your risk, you can make a decision that fits you. If you are at low risk, you probably don't need to use it. If you are a medium risk, it may be a good option for you, and if you are a high risk, you probably want to see a specialist.

Most experts agree. The home test is convenient and is a good place to get information if you have a risk factor. The at-home test may not be great for everyone considering genetic testing, but it can have certain advantages, according to Dr. Massart.

"It's easy. You get to do it in the privacy of your own home," Massart said. "You get to do it on your time frame as opposed to have an appointment in an office."

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