Purpose: To understand genetic testing use and decision making among patients with high genetic risk.
Materials and methods: A survey of breast cancer survivors was administered online by a hereditary cancer nonprofit organization, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, from October 2017 to March 2018.
Results: Of 1,322 respondents, 46% had breast cancer at age < 45 years, 61% had a first-degree relative with cancer, and 84% underwent genetic testing, of whom 56% had a risk-associated pathogenic variant. Most (86%; 95% CI, 84% to 88%) tested respondents were very satisfied with their testing decision, versus 34% (95% CI, 27% to 41%) of untested respondents. Factors that encouraged testing included relatives' cancer risk (75%; 95% CI, 73% to 78%), clinicians' recommendations (68%; 95% CI, 66% to 71%), and potential treatment implications (67%; 95% CI, 64% to 69%). Factors that discouraged testing included insurance concerns (14%; 95% CI, 12% to 16%), cost (14%; 95% CI, 12% to 16%), and discrimination (9%; 95% CI, 7% to 11%). Thirty-nine percent (95% CI, 36% to 41%) recalled hearing from a clinician that genetic discrimination is illegal. Respondents often recalled clinicians informing them about inheritance patterns (65%; 95% CI, 62% to 67%), surgical implications (65%; 95% CI, 63% to 68%), and other cancer risks (66%; 95% CI, 63% to 68%) but less often that results could have potential implications for clinical trial eligibility (38%; 95% CI, 36% to 42%) or targeted therapies (14%; 95% CI, 12% to 16%). Patients who had genetic counseling were twice as likely to recall clinicians informing them about all queried topics. Results did not vary by diagnosis year.
Conclusion: Among patients with high genetic risk, clinicians' recommendations, potential treatment implications, and protections against discrimination were motivating factors to undergo genetic testing, but fewer than half recalled clinicians providing all this information, and this did not improve over time. Clinicians influence testing decisions and should inform patients about legal protections and treatment implications.