Barriers to genetic testing for breast cancer risk among ethnic minority women: an exploratory study

Ethn Dis. Summer 2012;22(3):267-73.


Background/aims: To assess awareness of genetic testing for breast cancer risk and identify influences on the decision-making process regarding counseling and testing among an ethnically-diverse sample of women.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 33 women who were breast or ovarian cancer survivors or first degree relatives of survivors. Interviews were audiotaped, translated, and transcribed. Analysis of transcripts identified relevant themes and quotes were extracted for illustration.

Results: Low levels of awareness were observed in minority women, including those with a significant family history of cancer. A number of potential influences on the decision-making process emerged including beliefs about risk factors for cancer and opinions about the options following testing. Distinct issues were identified within ethnic groups that may function as barriers such as concern about the misuse of genetic information (African Americans), unfamiliarity with Western preventive medicine (Asians), and women prioritizing family obligations over personal health needs (Latinas).

Conclusions: Results suggest there may be a need for interventions to raise awareness about genetic counseling and testing among minorities. Our findings contribute to the literature by using in-depth interviews to uncover potential barriers and facilitators to counseling and testing and by including Asians and Latinas, groups under-represented in previous research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Genetic Privacy
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health* / ethics
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Perception
  • Prejudice*
  • Risk Factors