CHICAGO – Illinois women enrolled in Medicaid who are considered to have a high risk for developing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer now have access to genetic testing and counseling, First Lady Patricia Blagojevich announced today. The First Lady came to the University of Chicago Medical Center to announce that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) now covers genetic testing and counseling for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for women enrolled in Illinois Medicaid.
Through her leadership and continued advocacy efforts, the First Lady took the initiative to ensure that women enrolled in Illinois Medicaid have access to the same type of testing that most women have with private insurance. Genetic testing can help determine the best treatment options for women with hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer. Knowledge about what treatment options a patient should consider can potentially lead to better outcomes. With her commitment to increasing the number of breast cancer survivors here in Illinois, the First Lady is pleased that Illinois Medicaid will now offer these services.
“Women who carry the mutated gene through heredity have a fifty percent chance of passing that same mutation to their own child. These mutations tremendously increase a woman’s chance of getting breast and ovarian cancer,” said First Lady Patricia Blagojevich. “As a woman, I want to make sure other women are educated about all of their treatment options. And as a mother, it is important to me that we protect our daughters from hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer by identifying it as early as possible.”
Most hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancers are caused by mutations that occur in BCRA1 and BCRA2 genes. Not all mutations will increase a woman’s risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. But for those mutations that do, the risk of being diagnosed with either breast or ovarian cancer before the age of 70 can be up to 70 percent.
“Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should talk with their doctor about getting genetic counseling and testing. Finding out if they carry the BRCA gene can make some patients anxious, but the results can give women what they need to know to make decisions that can potentially save their lives,” said Dr. Funmi Olopade, Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“The reality is that this is a wonderful option for people. This is an option that wasn’t an option for people who didn’t have private insurance. For women who do not have a lot of resources, this will save lives, there is no doubt about it,” Nancy Amicangelo, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Network of Strength.
Women enrolled in Illinois Medicaid who have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer and have a significant family history, or those women who have not yet developed cancer but have a significant family history, will be eligible to receive genetic counseling. A genetic counselor will determine through various criteria, including computer modeling, if the patient should receive a genetic test for hereditary BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The outcome of these tests will often guide the choices women make in treatment.
“Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women over the age of 20, and when breast cancer is diagnosed early, the survival rate increases dramatically,” said HFS Director Barry S. Maram. “Illinois is making great strides in the treatment of breast or cervical cancer by providing this test. I would like to thank the First Lady for her work in making this a reality for the women served by HFS.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 192,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer, and approximately 5 to 10 percent of those patients have a hereditary form of the disease. Breast cancer will claim the lives of approximately 1,700 women in Illinois this year. Governor Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) so that all uninsured women in Illinois have access to life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatments. As a result, approximately 78,000 women in Illinois have received free screenings.