SOURCE: College of American Pathologists

College of American Pathologists

September 15, 2014 11:00 ET

Go Under the Microscope to Find Out the Facts About Genetic Testing and What's New

Gail H. Vance, MD, FCAP, Offers Insight Into the "Angelina Jolie Effect" and What Patients Need to Know When Weighing Their Options

NORTHFIELD, IL--(Marketwired - Sep 15, 2014) - Rapid advancements in genetic testing have opened many new doors for our personal health care.

The most recent and best-known case is actress Angelina Jolie's decision to have a preventative double mastectomy after doctors discovered she carried the "faulty gene" BRCA1 and had roughly an 87% risk of developing breast cancer. The "Angelina Jolie Effect" has raised a heightened awareness of genetic testing and has made it more commonplace to discuss the issue. But the rapid advancement in genetic testing has also made it difficult to keep up with all the information.

Today, there are more than 900 genetic tests for many different diseases such as breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid, and other cancers. For the average patient, making a decision about genetic testing can be overwhelming and confusing, and, in some cases, a matter of life or death.

"More genetic tests are available now than any anytime in history. It's important for patients to know which genetic testing is appropriate for them," said Gail H. Vance, MD, FCAP, a pathologist and a clinical geneticist specializing in cancer genetics for inherited diseases.

Pathologists are the physicians who use laboratory medicine to examine cells, tissues, and body fluids to identify and diagnose disease. They are involved in every aspect of health care. Pathologists provide the medical interpretation of genetic testing, which is critical to help patients make informed decisions about their health.

Dr. Vance recommends the following guidance for patients:

  • Talk with your physician about which genetic testing is appropriate for you
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of genetic testing
  • If you have been diagnosed with cancer, a genetic evaluation of your tumor will assist your oncologist in determining the appropriate treatment for you

"The advantage of genetic testing is that it allows a patient to know their risk for developing cancer before it develops and allows them to make informed decisions about screening options," said Dr. Vance. 

Dr. Vance is the Sutphin professor of Cancer Genetics and interim chairperson of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics. She also is director of the Division of Diagnostic Genomics and the Indiana Familial Cancer Program, which provides genetic counseling, risk assessment, and genetic testing to individuals with an elevated risk for developing cancer.

About the College of American Pathologists

As the leading organization with more than 18,000 board-certified pathologists, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. The CAP's Laboratory Improvement Programs, initiated 65 years ago, currently has customers in more than 100 countries, accrediting 7,600 laboratories and providing proficiency testing to 20,000 laboratories worldwide. Find more information about the CAP at cap.org. Follow CAP on Twitter: @pathologists.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Julie Monzo
    800-323-4040, ext.7538
    Email: media@cap.org