Genetic Counseling After BRCA Testing Low, Study Finds

Posted by Rheta Mankin on January 26th, 2016

One of the best defenses against the devastation cancer can deliver is having a strong grasp of personal risk factors. To that end, many women undergo genetic testing to help their doctors better understand the role genetics may play in the development of cancer down the road. This testing, although critical in some cases, can put unnecessary stress on women who may simply not understand why it’s being performed or what the results mean. That’s where genetic counseling comes into play. Counselors can help women understand the results and what role they might play in increasing their cancer risk should genetic mutations be found.

Genetic counseling, however, is not as commonly used as many might think. A recent study took a look at the use of counseling coinciding with BRCA testing. This genetic test looks for gene mutations that have been strongly linked to the development of breast cancer in women. Although not the only cause of this form of the disease, women with BRCA mutations are much more likely to develop cancer over the course of their lifetimes.

To better understand the use of genetic counseling in the medical profession, researchers looked at referral rates for women included in a study related to BRCA testing. About 161 women in the study, 5.3 percent of the study group, had BRCA mutations. Of the women tested overall, only 1,334, or 36.8 percent, reported receiving genetic counseling prior to testing. Of the women who did receive counseling, researchers found these patients had a better understanding of BRCA and the role it might play in cancer development and outcomes.

The bottom line, researchers say, is that genetic counseling is widely underutilized. This extra step in the genetic testing process can help patients better understand their status and enable them to make more informed care decisions down the road. The hope is the study will shed light on the need for counseling to enable more women to take better control of their care in the future.

Women who are concerned about cancer are urged to speak with their healthcare providers. A personal physician can help assess personal risks more readily.

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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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Rheta Mankin

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Rheta Mankin
Joined: July 2nd, 2015
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