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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Genetics Risk Assessment and Counseling (PDQ®): Genetics - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Education and Counseling About Risk / Risk Communication


A prospective study evaluated the effects of a CD-ROM decisional support aid for microsatellite instability (MSI) tumor testing in 239 colorectal cancer patients who met the revised Bethesda criteria but who did not meet the Amsterdam criteria.[29] The study also tested a theoretical model of factors influencing decisional conflict surrounding decisions to pursue MSI tumor testing. Within the study, half of the sample was randomly assigned to receive a brief description of MSI testing within the clinical encounter, and the other half was provided the CD-ROM decisional support aid in addition to the brief description. The CD-ROM and brief description intervention increased knowledge about MSI testing more than the brief description alone did. As a result, decisional conflict decreased because participants felt more prepared to make a decision about the test and had increased perceived benefits of MSI testing.

Other innovative strategies include educational materials and interactive computer technology. In one study, a 13-page color communication aid using a diverse format for conveying risk, including graphic representations and verbal descriptions, was developed.[23] The authors evaluated the influence of the communication aid in 27 women at high risk of a BRCA1/2 mutation and compared those who had read the aid to a comparison sample of 107 women who received standard genetic counseling. Improvements in genetic knowledge and accuracy of risk perception were documented in those who had read the aid, with no differences in anxiety or depression between groups. Personalized, interactive electronic materials have also been developed to aid in genetic education and counseling.[24,25] In one study, an interactive computer education program available prior to the genetic counseling session was compared with genetic counseling alone in women undergoing counseling for BRCA1/2 testing.[25] Use of the computer program prior to genetic counseling reduced face-time with the genetic counselor, particularly for those at lower risk of a BRCA1/2 mutation. Many of the counselors reported that their client's use of the computer program allowed them to be more efficient and to reallocate time spent in the sessions to clients' unique concerns.

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