Jolie’s Genetic Testing Draws Attention To Breast Cancer Genes In African American Women

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(Memphis) - The test that Angelina Jolie made famous is now making waves in the African-American community.

Two hundred and fifty African-American women with breast cancer were studied in Chicago.

Two-fifths of them were found to have the defective BRCA gene, which increases their risk of cancer.

Baptist Hospital Genetic Counselor Lorrell White says African Americans are at higher risk.

"We don't know if its they do have some more subtle genetic factors that maybe other ethnic groups don't have that causes them to be diagnosed," says White.

Researchers say comprehensive testing is key.

Carolyn Whitney heads up the Memphis Chapter of Sisters Network, a national African-American Breast Cancer Survivorship Organization.

She admits many African-American women are reluctant to get the genetic screening and the $4,000 or more cost can be a factor.

"When you don't have that insurance, the first thing you are gonna think is I can't do this," says Whitney.

The Sisters Network stresses there are resources available, which is why genetic counseling is recommended.

"We can do cancer surveillance. So we watch these women more often to find a cancer. Then we talk about with some cancers there can be surgical options we can do to reduce a risk of a cancer to begin with," says White.

Jolie chose surgery.

"You may have lost something you thought was so important, but living is more important. I think that was a brave thing that she did," says Whitney.

Baptist Hospital is one of the only hospitals in the Memphis area to offer Adult Genetic Counseling. You can contact a counselor by calling 901-226-4038.