Press Release Details

National Survey Reveals Low Public Awareness and Understanding of BRCA Testing for Risk of Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancers Among American Women

Seventy-two Percent (72 percent) of Adult Women in the U.S. Have Never Heard of BRCA Testing, yet 58 Percent Would Want to Know if They Carried High-Risk Gene Mutations

MADISON, N.J., Oct. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the results of a recent Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX)  survey, seventy-two percent (72 percent) of American women age 18 and older have never heard of the BRCA test, a genetic test that can identify mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with increased risk of inherited breast and ovarian cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates five to 10 percent of female breast cancers are due to inherited gene mutations, with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations the most commonly identified cause. The National Cancer Institute reports that BRCA mutations are also associated with increased risk of ovarian, male breast and other cancers. The results of the Quest Diagnostics survey, conducted online in October 2013 by Harris Interactive on their behalf among 1,460 U.S. women age 18 and older, is made available approximately four months after the U.S. Supreme Court's human gene patent decision created a new era of choice in BRCA testing for patients and their providers.


Also today, Quest announced that it has introduced BRCAvantage™, a new choice in BRCA testing offered by the company that's intended to significantly broaden patient and provider access to services to help assess a woman's risk of inherited breast and ovarian cancers.

Survey findings document that low public awareness of BRCA testing is compounded by misconceptions about the BRCA test and pervasive confusion or concern about what to do with the information it provides. The survey also illuminates perceived impediments that may deter access to appropriate BRCA testing and insight into some of the issues that have surrounded its emergence.

Representative findings include:

  • Among all U.S. women age 18 and older, 72 percent said they had never heard of the BRCA test
  • Among the women who are at least somewhat familiar with BRCA testing, only 17 percent have discussed it with their healthcare provider
  • Among American women who have not been tested, only 29 percent say they know what a genetic counselor is, and an even fewer nine percent say they know how to get in touch with one
  • Although 58 percent of women who have not been tested indicated they would want to know for sure if they carried high-risk gene mutations, 82 percent said they would not know what to do with, or would not be sure what to do with, the results of BRCA testing information if they were to have the test

The survey also found that U.S. women were largely supportive of open access to BRCA data and multiple BRCA test providers:

  • When women who have not had BRCA testing done were asked to speculate if they would consent to have identity-protected genetic data from their BRCA test shared to advance cancer research, 57 percent said yes
  • More than half of U.S. women (51 percent) believe that having more companies offer BRCA testing will improve the quality and innovation of BRCA diagnostic options

Women who have not had BRCA testing done also indicated that affordability of BRCA testing would impact their decision to receive the test, with 73 percent of these women saying that the potential cost of a BRCA test would prevent them from getting one.

"These survey results suggest a significant gap in the public's practical understanding of BRCA testing at a time when a growing number of genetic tests are available to yield critical insights for guiding healthcare decision-making," said Jon R. Cohen, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Quest Diagnostics. "While not every woman is indicated for BRCA testing, this survey's revelation that a sizeable number of women have never even heard of this important clinical tool is a wake-up call for those of us in the medical community eager to empower patients and clinicians to use diagnostic insights to make informed healthcare decisions."

"It is ironic that we share this survey's findings in October, breast cancer awareness month, given that the results glaringly reveal the need for greater patient awareness of the potential benefits and limitations of BRCA testing for assessing breast and ovarian cancer risks," said Dr. Cohen.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Quest Diagnostics from October 1-3, 2013 among 1,460 U.S. women ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Jayme Maniatis at Schwartz MSL at

About Quest Diagnostics
Quest Diagnostics is the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services that patients and doctors need to make better healthcare decisions. The company offers the broadest access to diagnostic information services through its network of laboratories and patient service centers, and provides interpretive consultation through its extensive medical and scientific staff. Quest Diagnostics is a pioneer in developing innovative diagnostic tests and advanced healthcare information technology solutions that help improve patient care. Additional information is available at Follow us at and

Jayme Maniatis, Schwartz MSL (Media): 781-684-0770
Wendy Bost, Quest Diagnostics (Media): 973-520-2800
Dan Haemmerle, Quest Diagnostics (Investors): 973-520-2900

SOURCE Quest Diagnostics