Participation of low-income women in genetic cancer risk assessment and BRCA 1/2 testing: the experience of a safety-net institution

Ian K. Komenaka, Jesse N. Nodora, Lisa Madlensky, Lisa M. Winton, Meredith A. Heberer, Richard B. Schwab, Jeffrey N. Weitzel, Maria Elena Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Some communities and populations lack access to genetic cancer risk assessment (GCRA) and testing. This is particularly evident in safety-net institutions, which serve a large segment of low-income, uninsured individuals. We describe the experience of a safety-net clinic with limited resources in providing GCRA and BRCA1/2 testing. We compared the proportion and characteristics of high-risk women who were offered and underwent GCRA and genetic testing. We also provide a description of the mutation profile for affected women. All 125 patients who were offered GCRA accepted to undergo GCRA. Of these, 72 % had a breast cancer diagnosis, 70 % were Hispanic, 52.8 % were non-English speakers, and 66 % did not have health insurance. Eighty four (67 %) were offered genetic testing and 81 (96 %) agreed. Hispanic women, those with no medical insurance, and those with a family history of breast cancer were significantly more likely to undergo testing (p > 0.01). Twelve of 81 (15 %) patients were found to have deleterious mutations, seven BRCA1, and five BRCA2. Our experience shows that it is possible to offer GCRA and genetic testing even in the setting of limited resources for these services. This is important given that a large majority of the low-income women in our study agreed to undergo counseling and testing. Our experience could serve as a model for similar low-resource safety-net health settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-183
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Community Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Disparity
  • Genetic cancer risk assessment
  • Hispanic
  • Latina
  • Minority
  • Underinsured


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