Increasing referral of at-risk women for genetic counseling and BRCA testing using a screening tool in a community breast imaging center

Banu K. Arun, Susan K. Peterson, Lilian E. Sweeney, Rachel D. Bluebond, Rebecca S.S. Tidwell, Sukh Makhnoon, Anne C. Kushwaha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Genetic evaluation and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) remain suboptimal. The authors evaluated the feasibility of using a screening tool at a breast imaging center to increase HBOC assessment referrals. Methods: A brief questionnaire based on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network HBOC genetic counseling referral guidelines was developed and added to the standard intake forms of patients undergoing mammography at a community breast imaging center from 2012 through 2015. Patients who met the criteria in the guidelines were referred for genetic counseling. Results: A total of 34,851 patients were screened during the study period, and 1246 (4%) patients were found to be eligible for referral; 245 of these patients made a genetic counseling appointment, and 142 patients received genetic counseling. Forty patients (28%) had a personal history of breast cancer but were not previously tested. Following counseling, 105 patients were tested for BRCA1/2. Eight patients (8%) tested positive for a pathogenic mutation and nine (9%) had a variant of unknown significance. Although they tested negative, many patients met the criteria to add breast magnetic resonance imaging to their screening due to greater than 20% lifetime breast cancer risk based on their family cancer history. This study led to improved clinical risk management in 67% of the patients who underwent genetic counseling. Conclusions: This study shows that large-scale screening of patients for HBOC syndromes at time of breast imaging is practical and highly feasible. The screening tool identified women with actionable BRCA1/2 mutations and mutation-negative but high-risk women, leading to significant changes in their risk management; these women would otherwise have been missed. Lay Summary: Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) caused by pathogenic mutations in breast cancer genes (BRCA1/BRCA2) increase an individual's lifetime risk of getting HBOC. Identifying these high-risk individuals and using proven preventive clinical risk management strategies can significantly reduce their lifetime risk of HBOC. Using an innovative family cancer history questionnaire, 34,000 women were screened at a community breast imaging center, and genetic counseling and testing were provided to eligible women from the screening. Several women at high risk for HBOC were identified and this led to positive clinical risk management changes. These women would have been missed if not for intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • BRCA
  • breast cancer
  • family history
  • genetic referral
  • genetic testing
  • hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Increasing referral of at-risk women for genetic counseling and BRCA testing using a screening tool in a community breast imaging center'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this