Clinical Topics

Racial Disparities Found in BRCA Testing, Counseling

by U.S. Medicine

July 22, 2019

DURHAM, NC—Despite increases in BRCA mutation testing, racial/ethnic disparities in counseling and testing have persisted for decades, a study argued.

The review published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities said its purpose was to summarize recent literature as it relates to detecting, understanding and reducing disparities in BRCA counseling and testing.1

Durham, NC, VAMC researchers and colleagues focused on articles published January 2012 to July 2017 relevant to genetic testing and counseling, breast and ovarian cancer and minority health and heath disparities. Overall, 23 articles were included in the review.

Study authors noted that research has reported lower counseling and/or testing rates for eligible racial/ethnic minorities among family members of high-risk individuals, as well as among breast cancer survivors.

The review found that Key barriers and facilitators of disparate BRCA counseling/testing include:

  • awareness, 
  • cost-related factors, 
  • stress and distrust, 
  • family concerns and communication, and 
  • provider communication and referral.

“To address differential access to and use of BRCA testing services and expand testing in minority populations, it is necessary for interventions to focus on improving awareness, risk-perception, and family and patient-provider communication,” the authors wrote, adding, ‘Multi-level and targeted interventions are needed to reduce persistent racial/ethnic disparities and improve assessment, provider recommendations, counseling and testing among minority populations.’

Williams CD, Bullard AJ, O’Leary M, Thomas R, Redding TS 4th, Goldstein K. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in BRCA Counseling and Testing: a Narrative Review. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2019 Jun;6(3):570-583. doi:10.1007/s40615-018-00556-7. Epub 2019 Apr 8. PubMed PMID: 30963508.



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