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Has the Failure to Suggest Genetic Testing in Men Risen to the Level of Medical Malpractice?

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Our Long Island medical malpractice lawyers looks at how the failure to suggest genetic testing in men has risen to the level of medical malpractice.

Most people think genetic testing is elaborate and unnecessary, but what may appear as superfluous medical evaluations could prove to offer life-saving information for those most at risk. It’s true that many families consider genetic testing a luxurious medical examination that should only be administered when required, but for those with a family history of illness, those tests are no longer a luxury.

Genetic Testing and BRCA Mutations

Genetic testing can provide patients a wealth of information about their medical outlook. There is a growing awareness forming in certain circles about the benefits that could be afforded to patients from standardized genetic testing in high-risk communities.  New research is being conducted on several fronts to investigate how genetic markers can predict cancer diagnosis.

Breast cancer, considered by most doctors a primarily female disease, impacts men as well. Information has been made public about the risk to those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers, and as a result, great inroads have been made to save the lives of women with these mutations. Doctors have not suggested that these genetic tests be performed on male patients with similar family histories of breast cancer, but it’s not hard to imagine that they would be equal in risk to their female relations with the same markers.

Part of this perception is based on a lack of enthusiasm by medical professionals – patients are not implored to consider this option. Don’t patients have a right to be informed about every medical possibility? When doctors don’t offer this testing, does it not potentially rise to the level of medical malpractice?

Increased Risked to BRCA Carriers

Doctors typically request a brief family history from new patients to better screen them for hereditary illnesses. Family histories of illness, like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, are soft predictors doctors can use to monitor a patient’s health.

Men with female relatives that have succumbed to breast or ovarian cancer are typically not observed for cancer the way a female patient with the same family history would be. A growing number of men are beginning to request genetic testing to expose markers that could lead to early detection of cancer.

Vulnerabilities like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have served as a reliable indicator of future breast and ovarian cancers in women. The most recent studies have shown that men should be aware of their BRCA status, because it could provide life-saving information to help them better screen themselves for early onset cancers. With doctors taking a less aggressive approach in screening for prostate cancer, men with BRCA markers are at a higher risk of dying from the disease.

The BRCA markers are considered a mutation, because they produce proteins that repair DNA after it’s been damaged, which impedes cancer treatment and the body’s natural defenses against the illness. BRCA awareness has long been associated only with breast and ovarian cancers, but they are also linked to melanoma and pancreatic cancers. Those with a BRCA mutation have a 50% higher chance of passing the markers to their children.

For the public to understand the predictive implications of the BRCA marker fully, they should review current statistics, which indicate the mutations are an impactful indicator of future illness and a high likelihood to develop breast cancer later in life. According to the National Cancer Institute, women with the BRCA1 mutation are 65% more likely to develop the illness, and BRCA2 carries a 45% likelihood of development of cancer. The BRCA1 mutation indicates ovarian cancer at a 40% probability and BRCA2 carriers are at a 17% higher risk of developing cancer.

Given the reliability of these markers as an indication of risk for developing certain cancers, the argument could be made that they should be requested for both male and female patients with family histories that warrant the necessity.

Were you recently diagnosed with cancer? Do you feel that it could have been detected earlier if you’d had the proper testing? You should contact the knowledgeable attorneys at The Law Offices of Cohen and Jaffe, LLP, on Long Island. We can discuss the legal support and solutions available to you in your medical malpractice suit.

 

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