Genetic Counseling Helps to Avoid Unnecessary Procedures, Study Finds

June 19, 2014
Christina Izzo

Receiving counseling from a genetic healthcare provider before genetic testing educates patients and may help reduce unnecessary procedures

Tuya Pal, MD

Receiving counseling from a genetic healthcare provider before genetic testing educates patients and may help reduce unnecessary procedures, according to a new study done by Moffitt Cancer Center.

“Pretest genetic counseling in which a healthcare provider takes a thorough family history and discusses the potential risks and benefits of genetic testing is standard of care as recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and National Society of Genetic Counselors,” Tuya Pal, MD, a board-certified geneticist at Moffitt and senior author of the paper said in a statement.

Researchers surveyed 473 patients who had genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Up to 10% of cancers are caused by an inherited abnormal gene.

The study showed that almost all of the participants who saw a board-certified geneticist or genetic counselor recalled having a pretest discussion. Of those that did not meet with a genetic healthcare provider, only 59% recalled having a pretest discussion.

“Our results suggest that genetic healthcare provider involvement is associated with adherence to nationally recommended genetic counseling practices and could potentially reduce costs of BRCA genetic testing,” the authors said.

The study also showed that involvement of a genetic healthcare provider halved the likelihood that comprehensive BRCA testing was ordered among the 266 for whom single-site or multisite-3 testing may have been sufficient.

“Our results suggest that genetic healthcare providers are less likely to order more expensive comprehensive genetic testing, when less expensive testing may be appropriate,” Deborah Cragun, PhD, lead study author and postdoctoral fellow at Moffitt said in a statement. “Our study found that in cases where less expensive testing may be appropriate, genetic healthcare providers ordered comprehensive testing for 9.5% percent of participants, compared to 19.4% when tests were ordered by other healthcare providers. At the time of data collection, comprehensive genetic testing cost approximately $4000, compared to $400 for the less expensive testing.”