WASHINGTONA survey of 110 Hispanic women at elevated risk for breast
and/or ovarian cancer revealed a high degree of interest in genetic testing but
a low level of knowledge about their own objective risk of getting these
cancers, Martha P. Martinez, PsyD, said at the American Psychological
Association Conference on Enhancing Outcomes in Women’s Health. Dr. Martinez
is a voluntary instructor of medicine at the University of Miami School of
Almost all of the subjects (93%) said they were interested in being tested,
and 62% wanted to be tested right away, preferably within the next month. The
subjects believed that knowing whether they carried the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
would reduce their sense of uncertainty about their future, increase their
sense of personal control, and help them make important life decisions.
They saw more advantages than disadvantages to testing, Dr. Martinez said.
The majority endorsed only 2 of the 11 survey items about perceived
disadvantages, ie, that knowing that they carried any of these genes would
cause them to worry more about female relatives who might also be carriers and
increase their concerns about developing breast/ovarian cancer.
The majority of the women surveyed believed that "knowledge of BRCA1/2
carrier status would motivate them to take a more proactive health
stance," she said. For example, most respondents reported that knowing
that they carried BRCA1/2 mutations would motivate them to perform breast
self-examination more frequently and help them decide whether to go for
mammograms more frequently or undergo preventive surgery.
Thus, knowledge of BRCA1/2 carrier status might lead to important changes in
health-related behaviors and adherence to screening practices in high-risk
"This is extremely important in the case of Hispanics in the United
States, since this group has been found to have poor cancer screening practices
and to present with breast and cervical cancers at more advanced stages of
diagnosis (and at younger ages) than individuals in the majority culture,"
Dr. Martinez said.
Based on family information that the women provided, the researchers
calculated their objective or statistical risk of developing breast and/or
ovarian cancer. Asked for their own estimates of their lifetime cancer risk,
77% overestimated it as compared to the calculation.