Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the world. In Brazil, mortality rates from breast cancer are still high because the disease is mainly diagnosed in its more advanced stages. Observing this, the government of Rio de Janeiro has recently passed a new law that will allow the Unified Health System (SUS), one of Brazil’s public health systems, to carry out genetic sequencing tests for women who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The examination assesses whether there is a genetic alteration in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which protect the body against these types of diseases, and can detect early cancer.
Women who live in the state of Rio de Janeiro and have a family history of the illness will be entitled to the free exam though it must be requested by a medical geneticist, breast cancer specialist or oncologist. The disease must have been diagnosed before 50 years of age in two first-degree relatives or three second-degree relatives, and the patient themselves must be under 40. The government of Rio de Janeiro has yet to disclose the deadline for the start of the agreement with the Unified Health System.
The law was named after the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie. In a high profile affair, Jolie underwent examination and found that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and 50% of ovarian cancer. Concerned about her family history, particularly as the mother of the actress died in 2007 after discovering the disease, Angelina underwent a mastectomy (surgery to remove the breasts) in 2013.