BRCA Mutation Testing in Young Women With Breast Cancer

In young women diagnosed with breast cancer, BRCA testing is recommended. This study looked at the decisions surrounding testing and how results may influence treatment decisions. The study’s objective was to describe the genetic testing and evaluate how concerns about genetic risk affect treatment decisions in these young women. There were 897 women aged 40 years and younger observed that all had a breast cancer diagnosis.

A total of 780 women (87%) reported BRCA testing by 1 year after breast cancer diagnosis. This study took place from the year 2006 to the year 2014. As the years went on, a bigger percentage of women reported testing. For example, in 2006, 30 of 39 women (76.9%) reported testing. In 2008, 141 of 146 women (96.6%) tested. Among the untested women, 43 of 117 (36.8%) were thinking of testing in the future. A total of 248 of 831 women (29.8%) said that knowledge or concern about genetic risk influenced surgical treatment decisions. In conclusion, rates of BRCA mutation testing are increasing in young women with breast cancer. Given that knowledge and concern about genetic risk influences surgical decisions, all women with breast cancer should be counseled and offered genetic testing.

We have started talking a good amount about the genetic role in pharmacy and pharmacotherapy. Do you think that genetic testing, especially in cancer, should be pushed for more? Does this testing actually benefit patients or just get them worried and thinking more? I think genetic testing is a great tool for health professionals to have and we should use it to our advantage as much as possible. The problem is, however, getting the public on board with it. What is the best way to accomplish that?

JAMA Oncol. Published online February 11, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.5941