Effective Referral of Low-Income Women at Risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer to Genetic Counseling: A Randomized Delayed Intervention Control Trial

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To determine the effectiveness of a statewide telephone service in identifying low-income women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and referring them to free genetic counseling.


From June 2010 through August 2011, eligible callers to California's toll-free breast and cervical cancer telephone service were screened for their family histories of breast and ovarian cancer. High-risk women were identified and called for a baseline survey and randomization to an immediate offer of genetic counseling or a mailed brochure on how to obtain counseling. Clinic records were used to assess receipt of genetic counseling after 2 months.


Among 1212 eligible callers, 709 (58.5%) agreed to answer family history questions; 102 (14%) were at high risk (25% Hispanic, 46% White, 10% Black, 16% Asian, 3% of other racial/ethnic backgrounds). Of the high-risk women offered an immediate appointment, 39% received counseling during the intervention period, as compared with 4.5% of those receiving the brochure.


A public health approach to the rare but serious risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer can be successful when integrated into the efforts of existing safety net organizations.

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