Breast Cancer Patients Are Not Getting Genetic Testing & Counselling, Doctors 'Never Recommend' It

There are three well-known genes that can mutate and raise the risk of breast cancer: BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2. Genetic testing is available for those at risk of developing these mutations. Gene testing is important, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that patients with a family history of breast cancer should be tested.

However, a recent study shows that high risk women often do not get genetic testing, nor speak to a genetic counselor to help them assess the necessity of the test. Only a relatively small portion of women with early-stage breast cancer receive genetic testing prior to surgery.

Cheaper Versions Of Genetic Testing Have Been Available Recently

Co-author of the study Reshma Jagsi, a radiation oncologist at the University of Michigan Health System, said that genetic testing can be a powerful tool for certain women, but it is worrisome that many women who are at highest risk fail to visit for a genetic counselling, Washington Post reported. The tests, which have been developed about 20 years ago, were initially costly, but recently, there have been cheaper versions available.

According to Medical News Today, lead author Dr. Allison Kurian and her team surveyed 2,529 women who were recently diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage. The women were surveyed at two months after their surgery, and were asked if they had wanted genetic testing and, if yes, whether they actually received it.

Are Doctors To Blame In Letting Patients Understand The Importance Of Genetic Testing?

Results show that 2 out of 3 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer wanted to be tested, but only a third had actually received genetic testing. Also, the study's results highlight the insufficient availability of genetic counseling. Of all the high-risk women who were tested, only 60 percent received counselling.

The researchers concluded that the lack of genetic testing for breast cancer is an important illustration of the "challenges of driving advances in precision medicine into the exam room." Dr. Kurian attributed the lack of testing to the doctors' failure to understand the benefits of this prevention tool.

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