Skipping Genetic Counseling for Cancer Risk Testing Does Not Increase Distress

Skipping Genetic Counseling for Cancer Risk Testing Does Not Increase Distress

A recent study published in JAMA Oncology suggests that skipping genetic counseling before or after taking a remote screening for inherited risk of ovarian or breast cancer does not lead to increased distress, anxiety, or depression. This challenges the belief that genetic counseling is necessary before undergoing genetic testing.

The study, led by Dr. Elizabeth Swisher from the University of Washington School of Medicine, involved 3,839 women who were tested for genetic markers of ovarian and breast cancer. Some participants received pre- and post-test counseling, while others did not. The participants rated their levels of distress and anxiety before and after testing. The study found that those who had negative results and skipped genetic counseling did not experience increased distress.

These findings challenge the current clinical best practices, which were established before genetic testing became more widely available. The study suggests that mandatory counseling for everyone may be a barrier to testing. Dr. Swisher compares this requirement to the early days of HIV testing, where counseling was mandatory. However, today, HIV screening can be obtained without counseling.

While some people may prefer individualized counseling before undergoing genetic testing, many find it easier, cheaper, and more convenient to skip counseling. The study showed that skipping counseling did not cause harm in this low-risk testing and increased the number of individuals who completed the testing.

The study suggests that routine comprehensive screening for genetic cancer risk should be implemented for all adults, with individualized follow-up only in the case of a positive result. This approach is similar to how mammograms are conducted today.

Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the impact of genetic counseling on individuals undergoing cancer risk testing. It challenges the belief that counseling is necessary for all individuals and highlights the importance of considering individual preferences and accessibility in genetic testing protocols.

Source: University of Washington School of Medicine

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