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“Surprisingly low rate” of genetic testing in lung cancer patients, especially in non-Whites

Less than seven percent of cancer patients in California and Georgia underwent genetic testing within two years of diagnosis, despite guidelines recommending genetic testing in the majority of patients.

Allison Kurian, MD (above), of the Stanford University Medical School and her colleagues reviewed the records of nearly 1.4 million patients in California and Georgia diagnosed with cancer between 2013 and 2019. The testing rates for inherited mutations that might be driving their cancers varied by cancer type, but was too low in all cases, averaging just 6.8 percent. This is “a surprisingly low rate,” said Kurian.

“These are not situations where some people think these patients should be tested and some people think they shouldn’t. They clearly should be,” she added.

For male breast cancer, the rate was 50 percent; female breast cancer 26 percent, endometrial cancer 6.4 percent, colorectal cancer 5.6 percent, prostate cancer 1,1 percent and lung cancer 0.3 percent. For Black, Asian and Hispanic patients, their rates of testing averaged about 25 percent lower than for White patients.

Genetic testing for inherited cancer risk can prolong the survival of patients, the researchers point out, by identifying their cancers’ susceptibility to new treatments. It can also lead to the patients’ relatives learning about their risks of cancer in time to do something about it.

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