Decision Support Tool Boosts Genetic Testing Knowledge in Breast Cancer Patients

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Decision Support Tool Boosts Genetic Testing Knowledge in Breast Cancer Patients

Genetic testing for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients can help guide treatment and identify whether family members are at increased risk, but many patients aren’t aware of these benefits.

Genetic testing after a breast cancer diagnosis can offer clues to individualized treatment decisions for a patient and her treatment team.

But many patients aren’t aware it exists and could be missing out on that opportunity, according to a new study published in Cancer.

A team at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center recently sought to determine how much newly-diagnosed cancer patients understand about the benefits of genetic testing after a diagnosis.

Their other objective: to find out whether a decision support tool would be helpful in improving that knowledge going forward.

“After a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, the relevance of information from genetic testing to her cancer changes,” says Michele Gornick, M.A., Ph.D., a researcher at Michigan Medicine and the study’s lead author. “The question evolves from: ‘Am I going to get breast cancer?’ to: ‘How likely is it that my cancer comes back — and is my family at higher risk?’”

To gain insight, researchers enrolled 496 patients with newly diagnosed early stage breast cancer from multiple practices in four states. Patients were randomized to view a tailored, interactive decision tool called iCanDecide or to view similar information on a static website.

The tool, presented as a website, was focused on informing women about their locoregional and systemic treatment. It also had a module about genetic testing that featured information about types of genetic testing, the implications of test results for treatments and the importance of receiving genetic counseling.

Tool improves knowledge

About a month after viewing the tool, patients were surveyed to determine their knowledge about genetic testing, including the probability of carrying a BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 variant, the purposes and benefits of genetic testing, and the implications on cancer recurrence, treatment decisions and family risk.

Women who used the iCanDecide tool had an 11.4 percent increase in genetic testing knowledge compared to those who did not, researchers found.

Still, overall rates of knowledge in both arms of the study were relatively low.

“Genetics can be hard to understand,” Gornick says. “At diagnosis, you have a lot of information coming at you that can be overwhelming. Given this, information shared during counseling may not be adequate.

“Interactive decision tools are one possible way to enhance and improve patients’ knowledge.”

Read on: Decision Support Tool Boosts Genetic Testing Knowledge in Breast Cancer Patients

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