3 Reasons Women Of Color Aren’t Getting Breast Cancer Gene Tests

For nearly 1 in 10 women, breast cancer is tied to an inherited gene mutation. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common gene mutations that increase women’s risk of breast cancer. These gene mutations, though rare, are most commonly detected in Black and Latina women. Despite women of color’s heightened risk, most aren’t being told about BRCA (pronounced BRA-CAH) testing.

Black and Latina women are 4 to 5 times less likely to be referred for genetic testing than white women, while 1 in 2 Asian women who are candidates for breast cancer gene tests don’t get referred. BRCA gene screenings are a lifesaving form of early defense against breast cancer.

When caught early, breast cancer survival rates soar. More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in its earliest stage survive for at least 5 years compared to approximately 15% of women diagnosed at a late stage. Here are the top reasons women of color hesitate to get BRCA gene tests.

Fear of costs

Doing a quick online search, the price of BRCA gene testing seems higher than it is today. Nowadays, most health insurers cover all or some of the costs of cancer gene testing for women with a family history of cancer. A nonprofit called the Color Foundation also provides extremely low cost breast cancer gene tests (ranging from $99-$249).

Fear of Discrimination

By law, genetic test results cannot be used against patients. The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act protects women in the U.S. who have cancer gene screenings against discrimination from employers and health insurance companies. All G7 countries and most European countries have laws that protect against gene testing discrimination.

Unsure of eligibility

If you have a family history of cancer matching those below, don’t wait until your 50s to get tested. Speak to your doctor and a genetic counselor about BRCA gene testing if: Women in your family have had cancer in both breasts Women on either side of your family were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50 One person or side of the family has had breast and ovarian cancer Two or more family members were diagnosed with breast, pancreatic or aggressive prostate cancer One or multiple family members were diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer Your family members have been diagnosed with sarcoma or prostate, melanoma, pancreatic, stomach, uterine, thyroid, or colon cancer before

Remember This

  • BRCA gene mutations increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • BRCA gene mutations are most common with Black and Latina women.
  • BRCA gene testing is more affordable and safe than ever.
  • Women who have a family history of cancers should consider testing.

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