Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Are Patients Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Receiving Clinically Indicated Genetic Counseling?

By: David Jeans
Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that less than half of patients diagnosed with breast cancer did not receive formal genetic counseling—even after clinical indications suggested they do so. This gap in the receipt of clinically indicated general counseling for these patients was explored in a survey of more than 5,000 patients.

Led by Steven J. Katz, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, the team surveyed 5,080 patients between the ages of 20 and 79 years, diagnosed from July 2013 to August 2015 with early-stage breast cancer. The data were from a survey of patients who reported to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries of Georgia and Los Angeles County, and the study sample included only those with indications for formal genetic risk evaluation.

The investigators found that overall, 47.4% did not undergo testing, and half of those not tested received any discussion about genetics. Of those tested, 40.7% tested negative, and three-quarters of patients received some type of genetic counseling, whether formal or a physician-directed discussion. In addition, younger women seemed to be more likely to report receiving some type of counseling than older women.

With approximately 43.5% of patients with clinical indications receiving formal genetic counseling, Dr. Katz and colleagues concluded: “There is a large gap between mandates for timely pretest formal genetic counseling in higher-risk patients and the reality of practice today.”


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