Genetic Tests That Don't Ease Decision Making Not Desired

Study suggests women might benefit from decision aids in considering cancer treatment
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic information that does not clarify decision making about cancer treatment may not be desired, and its impact differs depending on clinical relevance to the recipient, according to research published online May 24 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Michael A. Andrykowski, Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and colleagues randomized two groups of women -- 160 breast cancer patients (BC) and 205 healthy controls (HC) -- to participate in two different clinical scenarios that varied in genetic-related risk of cognitive impairment (CI) as well as severity of CI after chemotherapy. The participants were asked to consider whether they would want to receive genetic testing results that could predict their possible risk of developing CI after chemotherapy treatment, and whether having received that information, it would impact their decision making.

The researchers found that the importance given to receiving the genetic information was greatest when both CI likelihood and CI severity were high or low. However, differences in CI likelihood and severity were irrelevant to women's reports of whether the information would affect their actual decisions on whether to undergo chemotherapy. The women in the HC group were found more likely to indicate that genetic information would affect their decision to receive chemotherapy than those in the BC group.

"Results suggest lessened enthusiasm for genetic information that maintains or increases uncertainty about a specific course of action and highlight the importance of including clinically relevant groups in treatment decision-making research that employs hypothetical scenarios. Although women generally believe it is important to receive genetic information, they might benefit from assistance (e.g., decision aid) in the difficult task of integrating information about survival and risk for adverse late effects from cancer treatment," the authors write.

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