J Genet Couns. 2014 Jul 12. [Epub ahead of print]
A Survey of Genetic Counselors About the Needs of 18-25 Year Olds from Families with Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome.
As a result of modern treatments, the life of women who test positive for BRCA mutations may be plotted along the arc of preventive medicine rather than the slope of diagnostics. Despite evidence supporting the benefits of risk reduction, protocols for early detection and prevention among women from families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) are not yet proven, and clinical trials have not been undertaken for patients aged 18 to 25. The absence of psychosocial data may leave genetic counselors without uniform guidance on how to manage the care of these patients. This project sought to investigate perspectives on counseling 18-25 year-old patients from families with hereditary cancer syndromes, with specific emphasis on HBOC, given their unique developmental, familial, and medical challenges. Certified genetic counselors were recruited through the NSGC's Cancer Genetics Special Interest Group listserv. Researchers constructed an online survey which included 41 items and elicited information about: counselor demographics, training, and practice settings; approaches to cancer risk assessment; and common challenges in work with 18- to 25-year-old patients. The survey was also informed by previous work by researchers with 18 to 25-year-olds with BRCA gene mutations. Eighty-six surveys were completed. Researchers used a combination of grounded theory and content analysis for open-ended responses, supported and triangulated with statistical analysis to maximize the interpretation of data. Genetic counselors who responded to this survey experience 18-25 year old patients presenting for cancer risk assessment differently than older patients, and some reported adapting their counseling style to address these differences. Respondents differed in the extent to which they felt well-versed in the developmental needs of patients in this age group. Respondents aged 39 and under reported feeling familiar with this stage in life, having more recently completed it; respondents aged 40 and over reported they were less familiar with, and more interested in learning about, this age group. A primary challenge in cancer risk assessment of these patients, reported primarily by counselors aged 39 and under, is navigating family dynamics in counseling sessions and addressing the developmentally labile young adult. With respect to BRCA-related cancer risk, where penetrance is incomplete, onset in early adulthood is rare. Evidence-based treatment/prevention options exist, but providers may not have clarity regarding how or when to provide directive counsel. A rich understanding of the themes inherent in how people grow and change over time might enhance the counselor's capacity to assess patients and their family members. The integration of a developmental approach to genetic counseling has the potential to reduce the imperative for non-directive counseling.
- [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]