Breast and ovarian cancer screening practices in healthy women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2002 Jan;71(2):103-12. doi: 10.1023/a:1013800409238.


Studies in women with a family history of cancer demonstrate a wide variability in the uptake of cancer screening measures. Little data exist regarding the breast and ovarian cancer screening practices of women who are members of hereditary breast cancer families. In order to address this issue, we examined the screening behaviors and the determinants of screening in a clinic based group of 216 women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer who were participating in a free genetic counseling and testing research program. At baseline, prior to obtaining genetic counseling or testing, 50% of women ages 30-39, 83% of those age 40-49, 69% of those 50-64, and 53% of those >65 reported having a mammogram in the prior year. Adherence to mammography recommendations was correlated with age, number of relatives with breast cancer, and income. Twenty percent of participants had at least one CA- 125 performed and 31 % had ever obtained a screening ultrasound. Having at least one relative with ovarian cancer was very strongly associated with ovarian cancer screening [OR = 12.3, 95% CI = 4.6-33 for CA-125; OR=4.9, 95% CI=2.4, 10.1 for ultrasound]. No association between cancer worries/distress and either breast or ovarian cancer screening was found. In conclusion, the breast and ovarian screening uptake in healthy women from hereditary breast cancer families is suboptimal, even for women over age 50, for whom annual mammography is clearly indicated. These findings indicate a need for better education about screening guidelines for high-risk women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Demography
  • District of Columbia
  • Educational Status
  • Family
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Patient Compliance


  • BRCA2 Protein