Rates of Genetic Testing on the Rise While Utilization of Genetic Counseling Plummets
mGC Offers a Digital Solution to the Genetic Counseling Gap
A recent article published in JAMA Oncology found that the majority (63%) of women who pursued genetic testing for BRCA testing never received genetic counseling. Researchers surveyed women whose clinicians ordered BRCA testing and a total of 3,874 patients completed the questionnaire assessing BRCA knowledge, understanding and satisfaction. Women who received genetic counseling services demonstrated greater knowledge about BRCA and understanding of the information received, and greater satisfaction.
Lack of physician recommendation was the most common reason reported for not pursuing genetic counseling. The lowest rates of genetic counseling were found in women whose OB/GYN ordered genetic testing. This is particularly concerning because the patients in this group tended to have no personal history of cancer – a scenario riddled with genetic complexities and test interpretation intricacies. Women in this group were also less likely to meet criteria for genetic testing.
Genetic counseling is recommended pre- and post-testing for many reasons, and there are clear professional society guidelines and published research documenting the importance of these services. It has been documented that, in patients who do not receive genetic counseling, there is a high rate of result misinterpretation, and errors have led to late-stage cancer diagnoses or preventative removal of ovaries, uterus, breasts and colon in patients who did not need to have these surgeries. The rate of misinterpretation will grow as testing panels become more complex, including more and more genes.
As genetic testing continues to expand, with some calling for population testing, we will likely see fewer and fewer patients having the gold standard pre- and post-counseling by a certified genetic counselor. Busy providers with little knowledge of genetics will be increasingly tasked with ordering and interpreting genetic testing, and advising their patients in the short- and long-term on how to utilize these results correctly.
My Gene Counsel recognized that the complexity of genetic testing and the rapid rate at which the field and associated recommendations are evolving combined with lower access and utilization of genetic counseling services, called for a new solution. This solution must be a digital, dynamic product that will keep both consumers and clinicians engaged. That solution is the mGC Portal. We are now partnering with laboratories who care not only about selling genetic test kits to clinicians, but in ensuring that those results are used accurately and interpreted effectively by both the ordering clinician and the consumer. Stay tuned for more information about the mGC Portal.
Photo by Atos, via Flickr