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Ann Oncol. 2000 Sep;11(9):1131-5.

Primary care physicians' knowledge and attitudes towards genetic testing for breast-ovarian cancer predisposition.

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Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland.



Primary health care providers are expected to be directly involved in the genetic testing for cancer susceptibility. This study assessed physicians' knowledge, attitude and perception of their role towards testing for hereditary breast ovarian cancer.


A mail-in survey was sent to all general practitioners, internists, obstetrician-gynecologists and oncologists in private practice in Geneva county, Switzerland. Questions included socio-demographic variables, knowledge about hereditary breast ovarian cancer, attitude towards testing and assessment of their role in the pre- and post-test procedure.


Two hundred fifty-nine (65%) of four hundred questionnaires were returned of which two hundred forty-three (61%) were analysed. Response rates were similar between specialties; women answered more frequently. The majority of the respondents (87%) approved of genetic susceptibility testing. The most common objection to testing was the absence of approved strategies for the prevention and detection of early breast cancer. Most physicians felt they had an active part to play in the pre-test procedure, the disclosure of results, and especially the consultants' long-term care and support (99%). Physicians correctly answered a third (32%) of the knowledge questions. The abstention rate for individual items ranged from 13% to 60%. Scores varied by specialty. Oncologists were more knowledgeable than gynecologists, internists and general practitioners.


The majority of the primary care physicians in this study have a favourable attitude and are ready to play a prominent role in genetic counseling and testing for breast ovarian cancer predisposition. Defective knowledge scores, however, underline the need for targeted educational programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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