Objective: To assess female primary care patients' knowledge about breast cancer genetics and attitudes toward genetic testing.
Design: Self-administered survey.
Participants: A convenience sample of 91 female patients awaiting appointments at a large primary care clinic of Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington.
Results: Forty-seven percent of women had read or heard almost nothing about genetic susceptibility testing, and most did not know the answers to questions that assessed knowledge about breast cancer genetics. Eighty-one percent "somewhat" or "strongly" agreed that testing should be offered to everyone; women who had heard or read about genetic testing for breast cancer were more likely to agree that genetic testing should be offered only to people who have a reason to think that they have an altered gene. When asked whether they planned to have genetic testing for breast cancer, many women said "probably or definitely yes" (71% would do so if insurance covered the cost; 44% would do so even if they had to pay out-of-pocket).
Conclusions: Although most women knew little about genetic testing, many expressed interest in being tested and believed that it should be offered to everyone. Primary care providers may be asked to educate women about cancer genetics and appropriate use of susceptibility testing.