WSFA/NBC - You've probably seen kits in the store or online that will screen your risk for developing certain diseases. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first at-home genetic test for breast cancer genes, but genetic counselors warn it has limitations.
Joyce Ellens has spent plenty of time in doctors' offices over the last few years after being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in October 2015.
Ellens went through chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and then radiation. She also met with oncology genetic counselor, Anne Frankl.
"There are a handful of genes that can cause at least a moderate to high risk of breast cancer. And we're learning more all the time about other genes that can influence risk, as well," said Frankl.
You can even test at home, but Frankl said that has limitations. The FDA recently approved at-home DNA test 23andme to screen for three BRCA gene mutations.
"However, those mutations are only common in individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and there are literally thousands of other mutations that can't be detected by 23andme. And they're only looking at BRCA. They're not looking at the other genes that can increase risk for breast, ovarian, all sorts of cancers," Frankl said.
Through lab tests, Ellens eventually learned the gene CHEK 2 runs in her family, which puts the mother of three at increased risk for breast, colon, and skin cancer.
Ellens said, "That gives us power for the future and knowledge for the future and how to screen and just be preventative."
She is now two years cancer-free and spends much less time in doctors' waiting rooms.