Breast Cancer Patients Often Confused by Genomic Testing

MONDAY March 8, 2010 -- Doctors need to do a better job of explaining genomic test results to breast cancer patients, say U.S. researchers.

Genomic testing -- which analyzes 21 genes in breast tumors removed during surgery in order to predict the risk of cancer recurrence -- can help guide decisions about the use of chemotherapy in patients with early-stage breast cancer. Patients at high risk may decide on more aggressive treatment, while those at low risk may opt to forego chemotherapy and its potential side effects.

For this study, researchers surveyed 77 patients with early-stage, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer who underwent genomic testing between 2004 and 2009.

About one-third of the women said they felt they did not fully understand their discussions with doctors about their genomic test results and their risk of cancer recurrence, and about one-quarter suffered distress.

"Almost all women agreed that having the test gave them a better understanding of their treatment options chance of success," Noel Brewer, an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Public Health, said in a news release. "Most women said that they would have the test if they had to decide again today, and that they would recommend the test to other women in their same situation."

The researchers also found that most women accurately remembered the risk results from their genomic test.

While most patients in the study had a positive attitude about genomic testing and felt that it helped them better understand their treatment options, there is room for improvement in how doctors discuss cancer recurrence risk and treatment decisions with patients, Brewer and colleagues concluded.

The study is published online March 8 in the journal Cancer.

More information

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry has more about breast cancer testing.

Posted: March 2010


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