Publication Abstract

Authors: Freedman AN, Wideroff L, Olson L, Davis W, Klabunde C, Srinath KP, Reeve BB, Croyle RT, Ballard-Barbash R

Title: US physicians' attitudes toward genetic testing for cancer susceptibility.

Journal: Am J Med Genet A 120A(1):63-71

Date: 2003 Jul 01

Abstract: Genetic testing for an inherited susceptibility to cancer is an emerging technology in medical practice. Little information is currently available about physicians' attitudes toward these tests. To assess US physicians' opinions on unresolved issues surrounding genetic testing, a 15-min survey was administered to a stratified random sample of 1,251 physicians from 8 specialties, selected from a file of all licensed physicians in the US (response rate = 71.0%). Dependent measures included physicians' attitudes toward genetic counseling and testing qualifications, availability of guidelines, patient confidentiality and insurance discrimination issues, and clinical utility of genetic tests. More than 89% of physicians reported a need for physician guidelines, 81% thought that patients with positive genetic test results are at risk for insurance discrimination, and more than 53% thought that it was difficult to ensure the confidentiality of test results. Almost 25% indicated that genetic tests for cancer susceptibility have too many inaccurate or ambiguous results; nearly 75% thought that clear guidelines are not available for managing patients with positive test results. Only 29% of physicians reported feeling qualified to provide genetic counseling to their patients. More than 84% of oncologists considered themselves qualified to recommend genetic testing to their patients compared with 40% of primary care physicians (PCPs), and 57% of tertiary care physicians (TCPs). US physicians expressed great uncertainty about issues surrounding genetic testing for cancer susceptibility. Results of this national survey underscore the need to provide physicians with clear guidelines on the use of genetic cancer susceptibility tests and effective medical training on their appropriate implementation.