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J Genet Couns. 2005 Feb;14(1):17-27.

Evaluating the impact of genetic counseling and testing with signal detection methods.

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Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


One measure of the impact of genetic counseling and testing (GCT) is the extent to which it fosters behavioral change that is consistent with mutation status. We describe and illustrate how two different signal detection methods, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis and recursive partitioning, can be used in this context to evaluate the impact of GCT. We analyzed real screening behavior data obtained in the 12 months following GCT for Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC) using these two different signal detection approaches. Each approach demonstrated that GCT had an impact on behavioral outcomes, and was effective in fostering behavioral outcomes appropriate to mutation status. The ROC approach demonstrated that GCT was effective because mutation positive and mutation negative individuals could be distinguished on the basis of the number of recommended screening behaviors. The recursive partitioning approach demonstrated that GCT was effective because there were generally high rates of adherence to screening guidelines among subjects. The recursive partitioning technique also identified four subgroups of subjects, each with distinct characteristics, for which tailored interventions could be developed to increase rates of adherence to screening guidelines. Signal detection methods are easily implemented and are useful techniques for evaluating the impact of GCT.

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