Inherited cancer and the primary care physician. Barriers and strategies

Cancer. 1999 Dec 1;86(11 Suppl):2583-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19991201)86:11+<2583::aid-cncr16>;2-8.


Difficulties faced by primary care physicians as they increase their responsibility for the diagnosis of inherited cancer risk include issues of cognitive strategy, the context of care, and cultural and institutional factors. Charateristics common to many genetic disorders--such as rarity, variability, implications for relatives, and temporal pattern--render our usual cognitive strategies less effective. Constraints of managed care, care teams, and high turnover of panels create a particularly difficult context for the care of people at risk for inherited cancer. Echoes of the eugenics movement, the implications of expanding genetic knowledge, and concerns about discrimination all complicate collaborative clinical decision making. Eight strategies are suggested to cope with these barriers to diagnosis. Primary care physicians also face challenges managing patients identified as at increased risk for inherited cancer. These include confidentiality, coordination and communication. Concerns for protecting the patient's confidentiality can inadvertently leave primary care physicians with partial information. Coordination is complicated when multiple organ systems and individuals are at risk, and knowledgable specialty centers may be distant. Communication requires sensitivity and skill in translating complex concepts from molecular biology and statistics into lay terms. Seven strategies are suggested to help with management.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication Barriers
  • Confidentiality
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / diagnosis
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / genetics
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / therapy*
  • Physician's Role
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Risk Factors