Young woman,polygenic risk score (PRS) concept
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A new survey by Myriad Genetics of the attitudes, knowledge, and practices guiding women’s health care practices on preventative treatments and tests found that three-in-ten women were unaware of whether there was a history of cancer in their family. Further, it found that even among women who were aware of a history of breast or ovarian cancer among their relatives, that 10% of women 40 and older say they have never had a mammogram.

Survey results were from 1,000 nationwide between the ages of 25–64, which also found that while many women of mammogram age—40 years, or older—that one-third of them have not had a mammogram in two years. The results of the survey suggest that there is a disconnect between women’s perceived cancer-related health knowledge and the recommended proactive actions they can take to help prevent the disease or diagnose it early, when treatments have their best chances of success.

“Women need to be empowered to know more and do more to reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Mammograms are vital for the early detection of breast cancer in women, and many should consider genetic testing as well,” said Melissa Gonzales, president of Women’s Health at Myriad Genetics.

An important finding of the survey is the lack of an accurate family history of cancer, as well as a gap between what women think they know about their health and what they actually know, Myriad stated in a press release. Results show that while slightly more than half of the women surveyed (51%) said they have no history of either breast or ovarian cancer, many weren’t actually certain this was true. Part of the problem is that many respondents noted their family doesn’t talk about medical issue. Respondents also noted that only 30% of respondents are very comfortable speaking with their father about their potential risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, compared to 57% who are very comfortable speaking about it with their mother.

When it comes to genetic testing, 80% said they were aware of genetic ancestry testing and 70% are aware of prenatal genetic testing, but less than half (46%) knew that there are genetic heredity cancer tests available. Compounding this lack of knowledge of these germline tests, women didn’t know when to undergo hereditary cancer testing, with 30% of women believing it was only necessary if multiple women in their family had been diagnosed with cancer.

Other survey findings include:

  • 54% of respondents don’t know enough about genetic testing to understand if they want it or not.
  • Many respondents see their providers as a source of information about hereditary cancer genetic testing—specifically, 83% cited primary care providers and 69% pointed to their ob-gyn.
  • One in three women do not think they qualify for genetic testing or know how to ask for it (34%).
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