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Let's Talk About It

About a third of women with nonmetastatic breast cancer said they were interested in genetic testing, according to a report appearing in the Journal of Clinical Oncology this week.

The University of Michigan's Reshma Jagsi and her colleagues surveyed women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2007 from the SEER cancer registries of Los Angeles and Detroit. Of the 1,536 patients who reseponded to the survey, 35 percent expressed a strong interest in genetic testing, and 28 percent said they'd discussed it with a healthcare professional. Nineteen percent said that they'd undergone testing.

Interest in testing, Jagsi and her colleagues note, was higher among younger women, Latinas, and women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

However, nearly 40 percent of the women who had a strong desire to undergo testing didn't talk about genetic risk with their doctors, the researchers report. The researchers further found that black and Hispanic women, especially Spanish-speaking Latinas, who were interested in genetic testing were less likely than white women to discuss testing, as LiveScience points out.

Doctors, Jagsi tells Medscape Medical News, should discuss genetic risk with patients, even if patients don't ask about it. These discussion should "make sure that patients at high risk receive appropriate counseling and consider testing, and may be equally important to reassure patients who are not at elevated risk that they are unlikely to harbor a genetic mutation that would increase risk of future cancers or put family members at risk," she adds.