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Lab testing has come a long way in recent years when it comes to detecting breast cancer. The condition was once generally diagnosed at a relatively advanced state, making it less treatable. However, thanks largely to a better understanding of genetic risk factors, it is now possible to identify women who are likely to develop the disease and to detect tumors earlier.
In particular, the discovery of the BRCA 1 and 2 genes and their relation to breast cancer risk has greatly improved doctors' diagnostic abilities. In fact, a team of researchers from the University of Texas recently found that women who were treated for breast cancer between 2003 and 2007 were diagnosed an average of 8 years earlier than previous generations of breast cancer patients.
The understanding of how the BRCA genes affect cancer risk only developed within the last decade. Now, doctors know that a woman with one of the two genetic mutations has a 60 percent chance of developing breast cancer at some point in her life.
The researchers said that women who have been identified as carrying one of these genes should seek regular breast cancer testing throughout her adult life. This may help doctors catch potentially harmful growths while they are still treatable.
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