Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Breast Cancer News Update: July 26

Do doctors know when to refer a patient for genetic risk testing? Why do African American women with advanced breast cancer tend to have a worse prognosis than Caucasian women? Today in breast cancer news, we'll highlight recent studies that address these questions.

Not all doctors comply with BRCA 1/2 testing guidelines

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times, US News and World Report and Medical News Today covered a study published in Cancer which examined if doctors would refer hypothetical patients for BRCA 1/2 genetic testing according to recommended guidelines. Only 41% of the doctors would refer the hypothetical patients at high risk of breast or ovarian cancer for genetic counseling. 29% would refer a woman at average risk. Referral guidelines were more likely to be followed if a patient was 35 than if she was 51. Female doctors made proper recommendations more often than males. Ob-Gyn referrals were more compliant than those of internists or family practitioners. Urban doctors were more likely to make appropriate referrals than rural doctors. The authors recommended the development of simple risk assessment tools and further education to help doctors make appropriate recommendations.

Until then, be sure to discuss your personal family history of cancer with your doctor. Also, don't forget the July 13 Journal of the American Medical Association study which stressed the importance of updating your family history as you age. Changes in family history may result in changes in screening recommendations.

Researchers still don't know why African Americans with advanced breast cancer tend to have a worse prognosis

Several recent studies have failed to shed light on why African American women with advanced breast cancer tend to have a worse prognosis than Caucasian women.

Yesterday Reuters covered a Journal of Clinical Oncology study which hypothesized that the difference in prognosis may be due to differences in body weight. The study found that it is "unlikely that differences in obesity distributions between black women and white women account for the poorer survival of black women."

Also yesterday, Medical News Today covered a study in Cancer which hypothesized that African American women may have a worse prognosis because they are less likely to receive radiation therapy. The study confirmed higher breast cancer death rates for African Americans, but found that receipt of radiation therapy was not a factor.

A May 12 study in Clinical Breast Cancer tested whether the difference in prognosis may be due to a higher incidence of triple-negative breast cancer among African Americans. The study found that although African Americans were more likely to have estrogen receptor negative and progesterone receptor negative breast cancer, HER2 status did not differ by race. African American patients with advanced disease "exhibited an increased risk of death" independent of triple-negative status. Interestingly, no survival disparity was found among patients with local disease.

Please check back tomorrow for more breast cancer research updates from LATESTBreastCancer.com.

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