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. 2016 Apr;15(2):341-50.
doi: 10.1007/s10689-015-9852-6.

Non-genetic Health Professionals' Attitude Towards, Knowledge of and Skills in Discussing and Ordering Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

Free PMC article

Non-genetic Health Professionals' Attitude Towards, Knowledge of and Skills in Discussing and Ordering Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer

Kirsten F L Douma et al. Fam Cancer. .
Free PMC article


Non-genetic health professionals (NGHPs) have insufficient knowledge of cancer genetics, express educational needs and are unprepared to counsel their patients regarding their genetic test results. So far, it is unclear how NGHPs perceive their own communication skills. This study was undertaken to gain insight in their perceptions, attitudes and knowledge. Two publically accessible databases were used to invite NGHPs providing cancer genetic services to complete a questionnaire. The survey assessed: sociodemographic attributes, experience in ordering hereditary cancer genetic testing, attitude, knowledge, perception of communication skills (e.g. information giving, decision-making) and educational needs. Of all respondents (N = 49, response rate 11%), most have a positive view of their own information giving (mean = 53.91, range 13-65) and decision making skills (64-77% depending on topic). NGHPs feel responsible for enabling disease and treatment related behavior (89-91%). However, 20-30% reported difficulties managing patients' emotions and did not see management of long-term emotions as their responsibility. Correct answers on knowledge questions ranged between 41 and 96%. Higher knowledge was associated with more confidence in NGHPs' own communication skills (r(s) = .33, p = 0.03). Although NGHPs have a positive view of their communication skills, they perceive more difficulties managing emotions. The association between less confidence in communication skills and lower knowledge level suggests awareness of knowledge gaps affects confidence. NGHPs might benefit from education about managing client emotions. Further research using observation of actual counselling consultations is needed to investigate the skills of this specific group of providers.

Keywords: Cancer genetics; Communication skills; Doctor–patient communication; Knowledge.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Decision-making communication tasks
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Fig. 2
Managing emotions
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Fig. 3
Perception of own oncogenetic knowledge

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