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Genetic Counseling Disconnect Detected in Medical Community

Dec 16th 2015 at 8:44 AM

Women at high risk for breast cancer and other forms of this potentially deadly disease may find that genetic testing helps ease their fears. For those who test positive for genetic links, the fears may continue, but understanding the risks may help set them up for routine follow-ups to ensure if the disease presents action is taken almost immediately. Not all women who undergo this type of testing, however, are receiving a valuable component that typically goes along with it. The referral rates to genetic counselors are low, a new study finds.

Genetic counselors are medical professionals who help people better understand the results of genetic tests. It’s their job to decipher the technical jargon for their patients and assist them in creating a plan of action. They can also advise patients on their likelihood of developing a disease and/or the chances they might pass along an inherited risk to offspring.

Researchers from the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, however, have found that there is a disconnect of sorts between doctors and patients in regard to counseling referrals. While doctors may send patients out for BRCA testing, which is related to breast cancer risk, they are not necessarily sending them for counseling to go along with testing. The study found in particular that only about 12.3 percent of patients referred for testing by OB/GYNs also received genetic counseling. The numbers across the board, however, were low. Out of 1,334 patients followed in the ABOUT Study, only about 36.8 percent received genetic counseling prior to testing.

Genetic testing can help better pinpoint a person’s chances of developing cancer and a host of other potentially fatal conditions. Testing without a counseling component, however, can leave patients in the dark. To combat this, the researchers are recommending a great emphasis on cross-training to ensure those referrals happen. Researchers also found that patients who underwent genetic counseling were more likely to have greater knowledge, understanding and overall patient satisfaction.

People who are referred for genetic testing are urged to speak with their healthcare providers about counseling, as well. This critical component can help arm patients with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions down the road.

About Author
At Las Colinas Cancer Center, a Choice Cancer Care Treatment Center, our team is committed to providing the personalized, compassionate treatment that can make all the difference in cancer care.

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