New Analysis To Tackle Genetic Testing For Breast Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

Breast Cancer Testing

The United States and Great Britain have taken profoundly different approaches in developing genetic testing for breast cancer which has serious implications for users of health care.

Shobita Parthasarathy, an assistant professor at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, says differences in the American and British approaches to health care and commercialization of research led to the establishment of different genetic testing for breast cancer services in the two countries.

In Britain, the technology is available through the National Health Service as an integrated program of counseling and laboratory analysis, and is viewed as a potentially cost-effective form of preventive care. In the United States, although this testing was initially offered by several providers, one company eventually became the sole provider of a test available to consumers on demand.

Advertisement

Parthasarathy argues that these differences in genetic testing for breast cancer between the two countries has had important implications for the rights, roles and responsibilities of the users of health care, shaped our understandings of risk and disease, and influenced our choices of treatment methods to deal with hereditary risk for breast cancer.

"As we peer inside" genetic testing for breast cancer, said Parthasarathy, co-director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Ford School, "we shall learn that it is not simply the presence or absence of a technology that modulates the creation and definition of risk and disease, but also its specific technological architecture, or patterns of technology and regulation."

Current research indicates that one in eight U.S. women and one in 12 U.K. women will contract breast cancer. Those numbers have risen sharply over the last four decades, prompting public demand in both countries for genetic testing to determine hereditary risks for the disease. Parthasarathy, in a new book, investigates the utility of this test, and explores how technologies such as these might best be built to maximize their health benefits while minimizing ethical and social complications.

Her book, "Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology and the Comparative Politics of Health Care," has some key conclusions:

Advertisement