Few women at high-risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer receive genetic counseling

May 8, 2014, Virginia Commonwealth University

Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes account for nearly 25 percent of hereditary breast cancers and most hereditary ovarian cancers, yet a study by cancer prevention and control researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center suggests an alarmingly small amount of women who qualify for BRCA genetic counseling actually receive the services. Additionally, they found that a significant proportion of women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer underestimate their own risk.

The study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Community Genetics, collected data from 486 over the course of two years. Of these women, 22 met the criteria to be referred for BRCA counseling. However, only one of the women reported receiving and only one reported prior genetic testing. And while perceived risk of developing breast and was higher among high-risk women, 27 percent of high-risk women felt their risk was "low," and 32 percent felt their risk was "lower than average." Despite having a diverse population, the researchers did not find any significant differences associated with factors such as age, race, family size or the patient's knowledge of .

"Despite recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force that primary care physicians screen for hereditary cancer risk, it seems that too few women who meet the eligibility criteria are actually following through with BRCA counseling services," says the study's lead investigator John Quillin, Ph.D., M.P.H., member of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program and genetic counselor in the Familial Cancer Clinic at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and assistant professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine. "Unfortunately, this means that a significant number of women who are at high-risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer may not be taking advantage of preventive measures that could ultimately save their lives."

The researchers analyzed data from a pilot study called Kin Fact (Keeping Information about Family Cancer Tune-up) that was conducted at the VCU Women's Health Clinic. Kin Fact works by having a clinical research associate intervene during a woman's annual gynecology appointment to discuss the patient's genetic cancer risks. Participants were asked to complete a self-administered survey that asked questions about their knowledge of genetic counseling and their perceived cancer risk. After completing the survey, the study's recruiters obtained information about the patient's hereditary risks by noting all breast and ovarian cancers among first-and second-degree relatives. The researchers' goals were to assess the amount of women eligible for BRCA counseling in a primary care setting, explore associations between high-risk status and characteristics such as age, race and genetic literacy, and determine whether high-risk patients received genetic counseling and/or testing.

"We need to examine whether patients are fully aware of their , and if there are ways to optimize family history collection in clinical settings," says Quillin. "This will help determine if educational interventions are needed for providers, patients or both."

Explore further: USPSTF: BRCA testing for women with family history

More information: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955454/

Related Stories

USPSTF: BRCA testing for women with family history

April 2, 2013
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing be limited to women whose family histories are associated with an increased likelihood of having BRCA mutations.

Mismatch between cancer genetics counseling and testing guidelines and physician practices

July 25, 2011
A new analysis has found that many doctors report that they do not appropriately offer breast and ovarian cancer counseling and testing services to their female patients. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed ...

Genetic counseling via telephone as effective as in-person counseling

January 21, 2014
Genetic counseling delivered over the telephone is as effective as face-to-face counseling, finds the largest randomized study to date comparing the two methods. The multi-center study, led by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi ...

USPSTF supports counseling, BRCA tests for at-risk women

December 24, 2013
(HealthDay)—Nine of 10 women do not need and should not receive genetic testing to see if they are at risk for breast or ovarian cancer, an influential panel of health experts announced Monday.

Negative BRCA testing may not always imply lowered breast cancer risk

November 27, 2013
Women who are members of families with BRCA2 mutations but who test negative for the family-specific BRCA2 mutations are still at greater risk for developing breast cancer compared with women in the general population, according ...

Faster genetic testing method will likely transform care for patients with breast cancer

March 27, 2014
Faster and cheaper DNA sequencing techniques will likely improve care for patients with breast cancer but also create challenges for clinicians as they counsel patients on their treatment options. Those are among the conclusions ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.