-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Many doctors are not
following guidelines on genetic counseling and testing for women at
average and high risk for breast and ovarian cancer, according to a
This lack of compliance could result in women missing out on
treatments that could reduce their chances of developing these
diseases, the researchers pointed out in a report published in the
July 25 online edition of the journal
"Despite the existence of evidence-based guidelines on referral for genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, many physicians report practices contrary to these recommendations," Katrina Trivers, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a journal news release.
Women with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene or family
histories of these mutations are at significantly greater risk for
breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic counseling and testing are
recommended for high-risk women because there are treatments that
could significantly lower their risk for the diseases. These
services are not recommended, however, for women who are not
considered high-risk, because the harms of treatment outweigh the
benefits, the study authors explained.
For the study, 1,878 U.S. family physicians, general internists
and obstetrician-gynecologists responded to a survey about the
services they provide to women during annual exams. More
specifically, the researchers asked the doctors how frequently they
refer women to genetic counseling or offer BRCA1/BRCA2 testing. The
investigators also sought to determine if the doctors' answers
would vary based on their female patients' age, race, insurance
status or ovarian cancer risk.
The study found that only 41 percent of physicians said they
would refer high-risk women for genetic counseling or testing.
Meanwhile, contrary to guidelines, 29 percent of doctors said they
would sometimes or always refer average-risk women.
Trivers and colleagues concluded that more efforts are needed to
ensure that only high-risk women receive these services. They also
noted that doctors said they are more likely to follow current
recommendations when they can accurately assess their patients'
risks of cancer.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on
women's cancer risk and genetic testing.
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