October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness and Genetic Testing for Cancers of Many Types

My family recently underwent genetic screening for cancer. Genetic home test kits, Star Trek-like science fiction before this decade, are now available at the click of the button, their popularity making genetic testing companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe nearly household names. However, while technology has made the results remarkably accessible, what, if anything, do we do with the information? Similarly, for personal reasons, some would rather not know. There are no cut and dry answers.

As many answers exist, even more questions remain.

As much of a splash Angelina Jolie made in 2013 with her NYT opinion piece detailing her BRCA1 defect and decision to proceed with an elective double mastectomy, genetic mutations are not sentences. Science has yet to conclusively determine which and how much of other factors cause genes to “express.” “Genes are rarely about inevitability…they’re about vulnerability, propensities, tendencies,” wrote author and Stanford biology professor Robert Sapolsky in “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

October is breast cancer awareness month. As we have with other testing and summarized previously (here, here and here, and more), we worked with Health Testing Centers who has partnered with CellMax to offer genetic testing products. CellMax analyzes 98 genes associated with 25 cancers using a small saliva sample. Some of these cancers include breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostrate, thyroid, and bone, to name a few. [For a full list see the HealthTestingCenters description here.]

Breast cancer is not simply the result of defects in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but potentially many others. CellMax tests for 10 of these mutations related to breast cancer. Further, BRCA genetic defects are not just related to breast cancer, but others as well. While defects in BRCA1 and 2 also increase a man’s chance of developing breast cancer, men represent less than 1% of new breast cancer cases.

For those on the fence as to whether genetic testing is worth the time and money — it’s quick and easy to collect the sample, and relatively inexpensive — family history is a key consideration. The presence of both genetic defects and family history are generally taken together before concluding individuals are much more susceptible to a condition.

Breast cancer is not simply the result of defects in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but potentially many others.

A few facts:

What is the test? The test sample is a small vial of saliva — 3 ml, about half a teaspoon. CellMax analyzes this small sample with a proprietary, patented process to identify genetic irregularities.

How does it work? Customers simply fill the sample vial — it took us just a few minutes — and drop in the mail using the pre-addressed return envelope. Results take about five weeks.

Why I should do this? These tests help individuals with a family history or presence of other risk factors to identify whether they are more susceptible to cancer. Again, simply the presence of genetic defects associated with the condition under consideration are generally not conclusive, and should be considered in the context of additional information.

What if a defect is found? Genetic counselors are available to speak with individuals who have defects identified.

Interested in learning more.

More information is available on the Health Testing Centers website. In addition to CellMax genetic cancer screening, Health Testing Centers also provides testing products for Celiac and Crohn’s Disease, in addition to other lab tests such as routine blood work, cholesterol panels and more.

Discount Code for Health Testing Centers

For those who would like to consider some of the tests mentioned above, or others, Health Testing Centers offers HSA Coach users a 20% discount off their already retail-friendly prices. Use discount code HSA20.

The HSA Coach App. Download for Free in the App Store and Google Play.

About Aaron Benway, CFP, EA — Aaron is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)and IRS Enrolled Agent (EA). He co-founded HSA Coach, a digital tool to educate consumers on HSAs, track health expenses and other documents, and provide individual financial calculators, to help consumers get the most from their HSA and other savings. To help individuals directly with their financial planning and wealth management requirements he founded AB Financial Planning.

Prior to HSA Coach Aaron was the CFO of HelloWallet, a financial wellness software startup purchased by investment research firm Morningstar. Earlier in his career Aaron was an investor at The Carlyle Group and a nuclear engineer in the US Navy. Aaron has an Electrical Engineering degree from the US Naval Academy and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Aaron lives in the Washington DC area with his wife and two children.