Family communication of genetic test results among women with inherited breast cancer genes

J Genet Couns. 2021 Jun;30(3):701-709. doi: 10.1002/jgc4.1356. Epub 2020 Nov 10.

Abstract

Identification of inherited breast cancer may guide care. These benefits can be amplified through communication of genetic test results with at-risk family members and subsequent family testing (FT). Females with a pathogenic/likely pathogenic (P/LP) variant in BRCA1/2, PALB2, CHEK2, and/or ATM were surveyed about family communication (FC) of genetic test results and FT. Comparisons were made across genes. The 235 participants with P/LP variants (186 BRCA1/2, 28 PALB2, 15 CHEK2, and 6 ATM) had a median age of 54 and most were non-Hispanic whites (89%) with a prior breast cancer diagnosis (61%). When controlling for other variables, FC was higher among younger participants (p<.0001), those with high FC self-efficacy (p=.019), and those with P/LP variants in BRCA1/2 compared to PALB2 (p =.040) and ATM/CHEK2 (p =.032). Higher rates of FC and FT were also observed among female relatives and relatives of closer kinship. Overall 94% of participants would find one or more resources helpful with FC and 70% reported using FC resources when telling family members about their genetic test result. The three most commonly used resources included the following: (a) a family sharing letter (38%); (b) printed materials (30%); and (c) web-based information (23%). Among the 86% who spoke with a genetic counselor (GC), 93% were given at least one FC resource and the three most common resources GCs provided to participants overlapped with the resources participants would find helpful and those that were used. Our results suggest lower FC and FT rates among women with P/LP variants in genes other than BRCA1/2, the reasons for which should be evaluated in future studies. As more data to refine cancer risks and management are generated across these other inherited breast cancer genes, strategies to improve FC and FT are needed to amplify the benefits of genetic testing.

Keywords: communication; family; genetic testing.