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Involving a Genetic Health Care Professional May Improve Quality, Reduce Unnecessary Testing, Moffitt Study Shows

Jun 13, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. – A new Moffitt Cancer Center study published Thursday in Genetics in Medicine shows that counseling from a genetic health care provider before genetic testing educates patients and may help reduce unnecessary procedures.

Up to 10 percent of cancers are inherited, meaning a person was born with an abnormal gene that increases their risk for cancer.  “Pre-test genetic counseling in which a health care provider takes a thorough family history and discusses the potential risks and benefits of genetic testing is standard of care as recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and National Society of Genetic Counselors,” said
Tuya Pal, M.D., a board-certified geneticist at Moffitt and senior author of the paper.

In the Moffitt
study, researchers surveyed 473 patients who had genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Among study participants who saw a board-certified geneticist or genetic counselor, almost all recalled having a pre-test discussion, compared to only 59 percent of those who did not.  These findings suggest large differences in quality of care across providers who order testing. 

The researchers also suggest there may be cost-of-care implications when genetic health care providers are involved. “Our results suggest that genetic health care providers are less likely to order more expensive comprehensive genetic testing, when less expensive testing may be appropriate,” said Deborah Cragun, Ph.D., lead study author and post-doctoral fellow at Moffitt. “Our study found that in cases where less expensive testing may be appropriate, genetic health care providers ordered comprehensive testing for 9.5 percent of participants, compared to 19.4 percent when tests were ordered by other health care providers. At the time of data collection, comprehensive genetic testing cost approximately $4,000, compared to $400 for the less expensive testing.”

The findings are important, noted researchers, because costs and quality of care are often the focus of policy-level decisions in health care.

The study was supported by grants from Florida’s Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program (IBG09-34198) and the National Cancer Institute (5R25 CA147832-04).

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 1 cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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