Saving lives through saliva

22 March 2018

Mutations in two different genes are associated with a higher lifetime risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers: BRCA1 and BRCA2. It’s estimated that one in 200 Canadians carry a pathogenic mutation in one of these two genes.

But finding out if you carry this mutation isn't simple – to access and be covered for genetic testing, you need to meet certain criteria including having a strong personal or family history of cancer. In addition, research has shown that genetic testing is underutilized and most individuals with BRCA mutations may never receive testing.

Knowing if you carry a BRCA mutation could help provide a more accurate assessment of your cancer risk, or even detect cancer sooner. This could lead to more prevention options as well as better outcomes that will help to detect cancer sooner and even prevent it from happening. It could lead to saving lives.

That's why Canadian Cancer Society-funded researcher Dr Mohammad Akbari launched The Screen Project, a population-based genetic testing program. Through the program, anyone over the age of 18 can purchase a saliva collection kit for $165 USD, send their samples to a designated lab and receive results within 2 to 4 weeks. Those who cannot afford the test are eligible for financial assistance. Individuals with positive results are contacted by the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at Women's College Hospital.

“Our goal is to overcome the hurdles that currently exist in enabling people to obtain genetic information about their potential cancer risk. If they are genetically at a higher risk, this information could help them to take action to reduce their cancer risk,” says Dr Akbari. “By making genetic testing accessible to all Canadians, we hope to reduce mortality from breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.”

To learn more, please visit thescreenproject.ca or to speak with someone about genetic testing, call one of our Cancer Information Specialists at 1-888-939-3333.