(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Women with high-risk breast cancer seem to require significant encouragement from their surgeons before seeking out a genetic counselor, according to a team of researchers of The Moffit Cancer Center, Tampa, FL. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Recall of and Reactions to a Surgeon Referral Letter for BRCA Genetic Counseling among High-Risk Breast Cancer Patients,” which was published in a recent issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

In this study, the investigators aimed to determine the effectiveness of provider-referred genetic counseling for women at increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. To meet this aim, the investigators examined “the impact of a surgeon referral letter on recently diagnosed breast cancer patients’ uptake of BRCA genetic counseling.”

Twenty-six high-risk breast cancer patients were sent the letter, approximately 80% of which recalled receiving it, and a total of 16 women actually pursued genetic counseling in response to the letter. “Few women mentioned any implications for the information obtained during GC or testing regarding their current breast cancer diagnosis or treatment,” the investigators reported. “Of the women who did not attend, many perceived that dealing with the GC and testing process in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and treatment was overwhelming…most of whom stated they would reconsider after completing their treatment.”

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The investigators concluded that sending a letter may not be the best approach to engage patients to participate in genetic counseling.