Since actress Angelina Jolie in May explained her decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy to significantly reduce her risk of inherited breast cancer, treatment centers nationwide have experienced a large increase in genetic testing, ABC News reported.
The effects of the so-called "Angelina Jolie effect" even have reached across the pond, where breast cancer charities have reported a four-fold surge in women asking about having their breasts removed since Jolie announced she'd had the procedure, according to Daily Mail. And the number of calls Cancer Research UK's helpline received about a family history of breast cancer increased from 13 in April to 88 in May, the article noted.
In response to Jolie's breast cancer media bombshell, doctors acknowledged not all women need genetic testing but all women should discuss it with their doctors, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
"The question becomes difficult when you try to say who is appropriate for testing so that is where the education really needs to step up," Kristi Funk, M.D., of the Pink Lotus Breast Cancer Center in Beverly Hills, Calif., told ABC News. "Of all Americans, one million of us carry a BRCA1 mutation but it will take 19 million high-risk people to find the one million. And those 18 million people then who don't have BRCA1 are high enough risk to test."
Moreover, in many cases, breast cancer patients who undergo a prophylactic mastectomy derive little survival benefit from the surgery, but 90 percent are "very worried" about breast cancer recurrence, according to Lisa Rosenbaum, a fellow at the Philadelphia V.A. Medical Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.
And with individuals increasingly requesting genetic tests--and frequently misunderstanding the tests--Cigna now requires its members receive counseling before it will pay for them to undergo genetic tests for breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers.