Cancer screening gaps

Some groups of women with ovarian cancer are undertested for mutations that could guide clinical care.

Some groups of women with ovarian cancer are far less likely to have genetic screening than national guidelines recommend, according to research by Allison Kurian, MD, a Stanford breast and gynecologic cancer specialist, and colleagues at Emory University and the University of Michigan.

The findings point to gaps in how well, or how widely, clinics follow guidelines, and to the role race and income levels play in testing disparities, researchers said.

Fewer black or Hispanic women were tested than non-Hispanic white women, fewer Medicare patients were screened than women with other insurance, and fewer patients living in high poverty areas were screened.

Kurian said the results, published April 9 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, are significant because genetic testing results can guide patient care decisions, and can influence health care and screening choices of family members.

Researchers linked data on cancer cases in California and Georgia with data from laboratories conducting the bulk of cancer genetic testing from 2013 to 2014. Only 24.1% of 77,085 breast cancer patients had genetic screenings; and only 30.9% of 6,001 ovarian cancer patients did so — though guidelines recommend that all with the most common kind of ovarian cancer be screened.