Cancer risks

Women who undergo BRCA tests missing out on genetic counseling

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A new study conducted by health insurance company Aetna has found that women being tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes that increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, typically do not meet with a genetic counselor before testing. Women who received counseling reported better understanding and satisfaction with their results than women who didn’t receive counseling, and under the Affordable Care Act genetic counseling is free for patients. Despite this, women predominantly reported not seeing a genetic counselor because their doctors didn’t recommend the service. In the present case it appears that doctors have been shortchanging their patients. But as genetic testing becomes more common it may prove less practical to give counseling to everyone, given that the vast majority will not test positive for genetic mutations. A study by Robert Green, a medical geneticist and physician-scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has found that a condensed genetic counseling session that included mailed brochures had comparable results with those who had a full session with counselors. One thing is clear: for patients undergoing genetic tests, it’s better to know more than less.

Read the full story at Reuters.

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