Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center discovered that when breast cancer patients are offered pre-test genetic counseling before or after breast cancer surgery, patients seemed to exhibit a decrease in distress and an increase in genetic testing knowledge.
Genetic testing seems to be occurring more and more these days, especially among the breast cancer patient population. Women diagnosed with breast cancer may be offered genetic testing in order to test for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutation, mutations that are known to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Breast cancer patients with certain risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer or a breast cancer diagnosis at a young age, may benefit from genetic testing, but are these patients ready for the results?
Although genetic testing may prove to be useful for patients and practitioners, it can also cause anxiety for patients, especially during the time of initial diagnosis or during treatment. Patients may feel overwhelmed with the information delivered to them, or they may even feel that their family members are at risk.
Researchers Susan T. Vadaparampil, PhD, an associate member of Health Outcomes and Behavior program at Moffitt, and Juliette Christie, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in Moffitt’s Behavioral Oncology Training program, wanted to address this issue a bit further.
Vadaparampil claims that healthcare providers may be concerned that women with cancer may be at an increased risk for distress, particularly if genetic testing occurs at a time near cancer diagnosis and treatment. She goes on to say that few studies have examined whether this is the case, and little is known about the specific impact of pre-test genetic counseling on cancer knowledge, psychosocial adjustment, and decision-making about genetic testing for breast cancer patients before or during treatment.
To address this issue, Vadaparampil and her team conducted a study of 103 patients ranging in age from 24 to 69; 87 had undergone surgery, and 16 did not. The patients met with a trained genetic health professional in order to obtain a risk assessment based on personal and family genetic history. In addition, patients also received education on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer along with the limitations of genetic testing.
“Our data suggests that in the weeks following pre-test genetic counseling, cancer-related knowledge in both before- and after-surgery groups increased, distress in before-surgery patients decreased, and informed decision-making in after-surgery patients improved,” concluded the authors.
Do you feel patients would benefit from counseling prior to genetic testing?