Angelina Jolie, 39, went public in 2013 when she revealed that she had undergone a double mastectomy after a genetic test which identified that she carried mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
The news had a cascading effect and a surge in demand for genetic testing similar to one done by movie star Angelina Jolie who is also calling for more awareness with regards to aggressive detection of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Medical researchers are calling it the “Angelina Effect”.
However there is a hiccup: Insurance companies like Aetna, Anthem and Cigna are declining to pay for these tests which are also known as multi-gene panel tests because they say that it is unproven and lead patient to go for unwanted tests.
The stand of insurance companies has been flayed by a range of doctors, genetic counselors, academics and diagnostics companies as dangerous. It is true that multi gene tests produce data which may not be useful from a diagnostic angle but by refusing or delaying coverage, insurance companies are in fact endangering the life of patients who after the screening tests would have initiated dietary and other changes in his lifestyle.
Movie star Angelina Jolie had revealed that she underwent double mastectomy after it was revealed in a multi gene panel test that she carried mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which indicated a high risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer later in life. Jolie also had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed also.
The Multi Gene test does not come cheap and costs anywhere in between $2000 to $4,900 and analyzes 20 or more genes at a time. The tests allowed experts to figure out possible DNA links to other cancer-related conditions such as Lynch syndrome and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome earlier. Humans have about 23,000 genes.
Susan Kutner is a surgeon at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Jose, California. She also figures on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee on young women and breast cancer. Susan feels that women with a family history of cancer should be able get these tests.
Kutner said, “If we have members who are not being tested in a timely manner, we know that their risk of cancer in the long run costs us and them a lot more.”