A survey of ethnically diverse women treated for breast cancer has identified a “complete failure” among health care professionals to address concerns about genetic risk.1

“Physicians must recognize that even patients who seem clinically not to require genetic testing might nevertheless worry about genetic risk,” Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, MI, told Cancer Therapy Advisor.

“With growing media attention to celebrity experiences and court cases, there has never been greater attention to the issue of genetic risk,” she added.

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Dr. Jagsi, also with the Center for Bioethics and Social Science in Medicine at the University of Michigan, and colleagues surveyed women in metropolitan Los Angeles and Detroit diagnosed with stage 1-3 breast cancer from 2005 to 2007 identified in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry about their experiences with hereditary risk evaluation.1

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Among the 1,536 women who completed the survey, 35% had expressed a strong desire for genetic testing, 28% reported discussing testing with a health care professional, and 19% reported receiving a test.1

“Patients who received genetic testing were younger, less likely to be black, and more likely to have a family cancer history,” they found, while “minority patients were significantly more likely to have unmet need for discussion,” defined as a failure to discuss genetic testing with a health professional despite a strong desire for testing.1

Spanish-speaking Latina women were less likely than white, English-speaking Latinas, and black women to have discussed genetic testing with a health care professional. Overall, patients who had an unmet need for discussion in the long-term survivorship period had a significantly higher rate of worry, 48.7% versus 24.9% (P<0.001).1