(CNN) - Breast cancer testing guidelines are 20 years out of date, according to a new study.
The current guidelines for genetic testing limit the number of women who can get tested.
"Unfortunately, insurance companies pay attention to these guidelines," said Dr. Peter Beitsch, co-author of the study and a cancer surgeon practicing in Texas.
And because of these restrictions, the tests miss as many patients with hereditary cancers as they find.
"Back then we tested for two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA 2," said Beitsch. "Genetic testing was incredibly difficult to do and expensive; it cost about $5,000 to just test the two genes," he explained.
Beitsch says the guidelines “originated really as an economic roadblock to try to decrease the overall cost of health care in America.”
The result is patients without genetic testing might not get the appropriate treatment for their cancer, which could be a matter of life or death.
One of the authors of the study says the data supports one clear guideline, that all breast cancer patients should receive genetic testing.
The study states that an estimated 10 percent of breast and ovarian cancers result from hereditary causes.
You can read more about the study in Monday’s Journal of Clinical Oncology.