According to a new paper published on Tuesday, February 7th, physicians fail to mention the importance of regular screenings and genetic testing for breast cancer to women at risk. The research has been recently published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The scientists say they are troubled about their findings, as genetic testing could help women at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, as well as other mutations that would lead to the fatal disease better chose treatments for their current condition to prevent further health complications. For example, women who would subject themselves to regular genetic testing and learn about their condition that could potentially lead to the development of certain cancers could opt for surgery before the illness develops or for more stringent screenings.
The researchers say that genetic tests can identify certain mutations of the BRCA genes, responsible for the development of breast, ovarian, and other cancers. Genetic testing has been available for two decades now. However, in the early days, the tests were extremely costly. Nevertheless, the price dropped throughout the years, cheaper versions flooded the market, and genetic testing became available for every U.S. citizen.
Even so, only two-thirds out of 2,5000 breast-cancer patients demanded genetic testing. However, less than a third got tested, according to the researchers. Furthermore, 8 in 10 women at highest risk of ovarian or breast cancer, and subsequently BRCA mutations wanted to genetic testing because of growing concerns of ancestry and family health issues. However, only a little more than half received it.
The most worrying issue is that many of the subjects told researchers they were unaware of the procedure since their doctors never recommended genetic testing. Also, only a few said they knew about it, but deemed it too expensive.
While the research points to the physicians’ inability to acknowledge the importance of genetic testing, the study’s authors admit the survey has its shortcomings. According to Theodora Ross, head of the cancer genetics program at the University of Texas, the research had its limitations since it was based on patients’ own accounts. However, the researchers will focus on what doctors have to say about this in the future, as well.
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