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Testing Less Likely

Women with breast or ovarian cancer in medically underserved regions of the Southeast rarely get sent for recommended BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic testing, Nashville Public Radio reports.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic testing uptake among Southern Community Cohort Study participants. This cohort includes 84,513 individuals from recruited from community health centers in a dozen states and about half have Medicare coverage.

As Vanderbilt's Amy Gross and her colleagues report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they found that about 2,000 of the female study participants had breast or ovarian cancer, and 718 had Medicare coverage at the time of their diagnosis. Of these women, 92 met Medicare criteria to receive BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic testing, but only eight did within five years of follow up.

Gross tells Nashville Public Radio that many of these women had other health issues that may have taken priority. "If someone has uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension and they have this cancer, the focus is probably on making sure they're able to get the care they need in terms of chemotherapy, radiation, making sure they can go to their appointments," she says.

Still, Gross adds in a statement that these women and their families may miss out on health information that could inform their medical decisions.