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National Survey: Low Public Awareness of BRCA Testing for Risk of Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancers

72% of adult women in U.S. have never heard of it (October 15)

According to the results of a recent survey from Quest Diagnostics, 72% of American women aged 18 years and older have never heard of the BRCA test, a genetic test that can identify mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with an increased risk of inherited breast and ovarian cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 5% to 10% of female breast cancers are due to inherited gene mutations, with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations the most commonly identified cause. The National Cancer Institute reports that BRCA mutations are also associated with an increased risk of ovarian, male breast, and other cancers.

The survey was conducted online in October 2013 among 1,460 U.S. women aged 18 years and older.

The survey findings document that low public awareness of BRCA testing is compounded by misconceptions about the BRCA test and confusion or concern about what to do with the information it provides. The survey also illuminates perceived impediments that may deter access to appropriate BRCA testing.

Key findings include:

  • Among all U.S. women aged 18 years and older, 72% said they had never heard of the BRCA test.
  • Among the women who were at least somewhat familiar with BRCA testing, only 17% had discussed it with their healthcare provider.
  • Among American women who had not been tested, only 29% said they know what a genetic counselor is, and 9% said they know how to get in touch with one.
  • Although 58% of women who had not been tested indicated they would want to know for sure whether they carried high-risk gene mutations, 82% said they would not know what to do with, or would not be sure what to do with, the results of BRCA testing information if they were to have the test.

Women who had not undergone BRCA testing also indicated that the affordability of the test would affect their decision to have it done, with 73% of these women saying that the potential cost of a BRCA test would prevent them from getting one.

Source: PR Newswire; October 15, 2013.

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