"In order to identify patients at high risk, physicians must take thorough family histories and then accurately interpret that information, something that can be difficult since many nuances can determine risk," says Kevin Hughes, MD, of the MGH Surgical Oncology Division, the study's senior author. "In addition, family history can change over time if a patient's relatives develop cancer. We need an easier way to both update data and reevaluate each patient's situation."
Previous research has shown that about 20 percent of women who develop breast or ovarian cancer have family histories that suggest they may have inherited a mutation that would put them at elevated risk. In comparison, the family histories of only 3 to 6 percent of women who had not developed those cancers indicate elevated risk. The current study was designed to further investigate the extent to which women with these mutations are not being identified and to evaluate a less labor-intensive method of collecting and analyzing family history information.
During the eight-month study period, about 14,000 women who came to the Avon Breast Evaluation Center at MGH completed a questionnaire on their family history of breast or ovarian cancer, whether they had developed any tumors and related factors. The information was gathered either with written questionnaires scanned into a computer or on handheld
Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital