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Genetic Counseling, Testing: Telling Kids About Inherited Cancer Risk

Date:
October 15, 2007
Source:
National Society of Genetic Counselors
Summary:
When women with children attend a counseling session before undergoing genetic testing for breast cancer, they are far more likely than their partners to be up front with their kids about the tests and the potential for cancers being inherited. However, researchers also found that when the co-parent attended the genetic counseling session with the woman, they were more informed about genetic testing and had much more interaction and communication with their children than those who did not attend.
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When women with children attend a counseling session before undergoing genetic testing for breast cancer, they are far more likely than their partners to be up front with their kids about the tests and the potential for cancers being inherited, according to a study released recently at the annual meeting of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

However, researchers also found that when the co-parent--a spouse, partner or other adult involved in the upbringing and care of the children--attended the genetic counseling session with the woman, they were more informed about genetic testing and had much more interaction and communication with their children than those who did not attend, said Tiffani A. DeMarco, lead author of the study.

"The bottom line is that moms are really the gatekeepers of the information about genetic testing," said DeMarco, a genetic counselor and clinical coordinator of the cancer genetics program at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center and the Washington Cancer Institute/Washington Hospital Center. "But women can potentially benefit from having a co-parent who attends the counseling session because they will be more likely to understand what the mom is going through and more likely to be able to communicate some of that to their children."

Georgetown University Medical Center researchers interviewed 97 women undergoing genetic testing for breast cancer and 97 of their co-parents. The women were undergoing genetic counseling for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk and providing a blood sample for BRCA1/2 genetic testing. Those interviewed had children between the ages of 8 and 21 years. About 35 percent of the co-parents attended the pre-test genetic counseling session.

"Parents who undergo counseling are much more likely to have talked to their children about cancer in general and felt that they needed to reassure them about their worries," DeMarco said.

The study is part of ongoing research from a team at the Washington, D.C.,-based Lombardi Cancer Center. Earlier research found that up to 50 percent of parents disclose the results of genetic breast cancer tests to a child less than 18 years old within one month of learning of the woman's carrier status.

Patients interviewed received genetic counseling at the Lombardi Cancer Center, the Ruttenberg Cancer Center in New York, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by National Society of Genetic Counselors. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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National Society of Genetic Counselors. "Genetic Counseling, Testing: Telling Kids About Inherited Cancer Risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014081100.htm>.
National Society of Genetic Counselors. (2007, October 15). Genetic Counseling, Testing: Telling Kids About Inherited Cancer Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014081100.htm
National Society of Genetic Counselors. "Genetic Counseling, Testing: Telling Kids About Inherited Cancer Risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014081100.htm (accessed August 31, 2015).

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