Exome sequencing disclosures in pediatric cancer care: Patterns of communication among oncologists, genetic counselors, and parents

Patient Educ Couns. 2019 Apr;102(4):680-686. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2018.11.007. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Objective: To examine communication patterns and behaviors during disclosure of exome sequencing (ES) results to parents of pediatric cancer patients, and describe common themes in parental communication.

Methods: Using mixed methods, we analyzed transcripts of sessions where parents of pediatric cancer patients received ES results from an oncologist and genetic counselor. Seventy-six transcripts were analyzed for frequency of clinician information-giving, partnering-supportive talk, and active parent participation. A subset of 40 transcripts were analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Results: Disclosures consisted mostly of clinician talk (84% of total talk), which was focused on providing information (62% of clinicians' utterances) with occasional partnering-supportive talk (7% of clinicians' utterances). Most parents assumed a passive, listening role (16% of total talk). Themes in parental communication included expressing relief and the significance of an answer, concern about sharing results and responsibility for inheritance, and seeking clarification of health implications of results.

Conclusion: Our finding of low levels of active parent participation during ES disclosures highlights the need to improve patient/parent engagement and understanding in a genetic setting.

Practice implications: Clinician communication strategies that could encourage parent participation and understanding include checking for parent understanding, partnership-building, and tailoring ES discussions to address parent concerns and preferences.

Keywords: Clinician-patient communication; Exome sequencing; Genetic counseling; Return of results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making
  • Disclosure*
  • Exome / genetics*
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Oncologists / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patients / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Professional-Family Relations