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Family Discussion Plays Role in Breast Cancer Awareness
Date:3/21/2008

Openness has major impact on counseling and genetic testing, study shows

FRIDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- The willingness of relatives to discuss a family's cancer history has a major impact on the awareness of genetic counseling and testing among women at moderate risk for breast cancer, according to a preliminary U.S. study.

Previous research found that black women are less likely than white women to have genetic counseling or testing for genetic mutations that increase breast cancer risk, and that black women are more likely to be diagnosed with a later stage of breast cancer and are thus more likely to die from the disease.

Genetic testing looks for BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes in which mutations greatly increase the risk of breast cancer.

"It's important to understand the many reasons for these differences, so we can better address them," said Kristi D. Graves, a clinical psychologist at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

"In this study, we evaluated the impact of socio-cultural variables on knowledge and attitudes about BRCA1/2 counseling and testing. We hope to use this information to better understand why there's a difference in testing uptake among black and white women," she said.

Graves and colleagues conducted telephone interviews with 105 women (75 white, 30 black) with a negative breast biopsy history and with at least one relative who had breast or ovarian cancer. In the interviews, the researchers gathered information about the participants' cancer history, perceived risk, worry, medical mistrust, cancer fatalism, family/physician communication, race-based experiences, and knowledge and attitudes towards BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genetic testing.

"We didn't find a statistical difference in knowledge or attitudes between African-American and Caucasian women," Graves said. "We did observe a difference, however, amon
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