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Ethics Behind Genetic Testing in Breast Cancer: A Webinar by Laura Carfang of survivingbreastcancer.org

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

The following are Notes from a Webinar sponsored by survivingbreastcancer.org  on March 12,2020.

The webinar started with a brief introduction of attendees , most who are breast cancer survivors.  Survivingbreastcancer.org is an organization committed to supplying women affected with breast cancer up to date information, including podcasts, webinars, and information for treatment, care, and finding support and support groups.

Some of the comments of survivors:

  • being strong
  • making sure to not feel overwhelmed on initial diagnosis
  • get good information
  • sometimes patients have to know to ask for genetic testing as physicians may not offer it

Laura Carfang discussed her study results presented at  a bioethics conference in Clearwater, FL   on issues driving breast cancer patient’s  as well as at-risk women’s decision making process for genetic testing.  The study was a phenomenological study in order to determine, through personal lived experiences, what are pivotal choices to make genetic testing decisions in order to improve clinical practice.

The research involved in depth interviews with 6 breast cancer patients (all women) who had undergone breast cancer genetic testing.

Main themes coming from the interviews

  • information informing decisions before diagnosis:  they did not have an in depth knowledge of cancer or genetics or their inherent risk before the diagnosis.
  • these are my genes and I should own it: another common theme among women who were just diagnosed and contemplating whether or not to have genetic testing
  • information contributing to decision making after diagnosis: women wanted the option, and they wanted to know if they carry certain genetic mutations and how it would guide their own personal decision to choose the therapy they are most comfortable with and gives them the best chance to treat their cancer (the decision and choice is very personal)
  • communicating to family members and children was difficult for the individual affected;  women found that there were so many ramifications about talking with family members (how do I tell children, do family members really empathize with what I am going through).  Once women were tested they felt a great strain because they now were more concerned with who in their family (daughters) were at risk versus when they first get the diagnosis the bigger concern was obtaining information.
  • Decision making to undergo genetic testing not always linear but a nonlinear process where women went from wanting to get tested for the information to not wanting to get tested for reasons surrounding negative concerns surrounding knowing results (discrimination based on results, fear of telling family members)
  • Complex decision making involves a shift or alteration in emotion
  • The Mayo Clinic has come out with full support of genetic testing and offer to any patient.

Additional resources discussed was a book by Leslie Ferris Yerger “Probably Benign” which discusses misdiagnoses especially when a test comes back as “probably benign” and how she found it was not.

 

for more information on further Podcasts and to sign up for newsletters please go to https://www.survivingbreastcancer.org/

and @SBC_org

More articles on this Online Open Access Journal on Cancer and Bioethics Include:

Ethical Concerns in Personalized Medicine: BRCA1/2 Testing in Minors and Communication of Breast Cancer Risk

Tweets and Re-Tweets by @Pharma_BI ‏and @AVIVA1950 at 2019 Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference: Consuming Genetics: Ethical and Legal Considerations of New Technologies, Friday, May 17, 2019 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM EDT @Harvard_Law

Genomics & Ethics: DNA Fragments are Products of Nature or Patentable Genes?

Study Finds that Both Women and their Primary Care Physicians Confusion over Ovarian Cancer Symptoms May Lead to Misdiagnosis

 

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