BOISE -- Modern medicine and early detection are helping women in the fight against breast cancer, but recently a decision in our nation's highest court has made it easier to afford the cost of genetic cancer testing.

The Saint Alphonsus Breast Cancer Center in Boise reports that one in 500 breast cancer cases women have what's called the BRCA gene mutation.

Saint Al s Breast Surgeon Elizabeth Prier says knowledge of the BRCA gene has been around for the last decade, and identifying at-risk women has intesified in the last five years.

A lot of women with BRCA1 will end up with breast cancer in their 30 s sometimes in their late 20 s, said Dr. Prier.

That means women end up starting their fight with the disease earlier.

Annie Pierce, a wife and mother of two, ended her battle with breast cancer before it even started.

You see people all the time get blindsided by things and I just thought since I had this knowledge I would just take action, said Pierce.

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 50's and so were her aunts. They have a BRCA gene mutation. So she decided she would also get tested for that same gene when she turned twenty-six.

We do see a fair number of women who are either identified as having the mutation before they have actually developed breast cancer or we do unfortunately see some women who develop breast cancer and then based on their family history get tested and then determine that they do have the gene as well, explained Dr. Prier.

Pierce wanted to fight breast cancer before it happened.

If I could prevent having to do that, that was my goal, said Pierce.

So when she found out she was positive for the BRCA 2 gene, she decided to have a double mastectomy.

It was just kind of a looming cloud over me and I thought why not just get it done, she said.

Women with the BRCA gene often meet with a genetic counselor like Patty Dock who works with Saint Al s.

Genetics is still learning and growing and your pre and post genetic counseling prepares you for what kinds of results you can get and then it s all about the interpretation, explains Dock.

However another big victory for breast cancer patients was made this past summer when the United States Supreme Court ruled to remove the patent on the BRCA gene.

Myriad Genetics Laboratory was forced to free the patents on the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, allowing other labs to also perform genetic testing, which in turn cut the price to do testing in half.

So competition is wonderful for patients and made it so affordable and available and here at Saint Alphonsus there is no charge for the genetic counseling; its part of integrated care, said Dock.

She said there is now no financial reason for women in Idaho to not get the information they need and consider testing for the BRCA gene, if they qualify.

We gave a lot of genetic counselors in Idaho we are very lucky in the Boise area and the counselors at Saint Al s are no charge, said Dock The departments support the care.

Now women just like Pierce who have the BRCA gene will also have a fighting chance to save their lives in a more affordable and accessible way.

If I could prevent having to do that, that was my goal, said Pierce.

According to Dr. Prier, there are a variety of ways to move past a positive BRCA test, and not every woman has to choose to have a mastectomy.

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