Study Shows Underutilization of Genetic Testing in Women With Ovarian Cancer

April 9, 2019

ASCO Perspective
“Genetic testing plays an increasingly important role in the management of breast and ovarian cancer, and results can inform a treatment plan as well as potentially preventative measures for patients and their families. For more than a decade, clinical practice guidelines have recommended genetic testing for all women with ovarian cancer. Moreover, black women are at greater risk of dying from ovarian cancer than white women. This study should prompt clinicians to redouble their efforts to ensure genetic counseling and testing are a routine part of ovarian cancer care.” 

  • Merry Jennifer Markham, MD, FACP, ASCO Expert

New research suggests women with ovarian cancer are not undergoing genetic testing, despite existing clinical practice guidelines that recommend nearly all women with ovarian cancer receive genetic testing. Using data from registries in California and Georgia, researchers examined records from more than 77,000 women with breast or ovarian cancer. The authors found that just 30% of women with ovarian cancer received genetic testing, while 24% of women with breast cancer received genetic testing (genetic testing guidelines for breast cancer do not recommend testing in all patients, unlike guidelines for ovarian cancer).

In addition, researchers noticed racial and socioeconomic disparities in the frequency of genetic testing. Among women with ovarian cancer, genetic testing rates were lower for black women as compared with white women (22% vs. 34%). Uninsured women with ovarian cancer had lower genetic testing rates than insured women (21% vs. 35%).

The authors do not yet know why such disparities exist but suggest that there are several factors to consider such as a developing ovarian cancer at an older age for ovarian cancer, clinician attitude toward genetic testing, and availability of services.

Read the full study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology