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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Dec 10;26(35):5789-96. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2008.17.8053. Epub 2008 Nov 10.

Physicians' experiences with BRCA1/2 testing in community settings.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



We surveyed a national sample of nonacademic physicians who ordered BRCA1/2 testing to understand their implementation of genetic testing and to assess recommendations for surveillance and cancer risk management of women with positive test results.


We surveyed physicians (N = 611 of 1,050; response rate, 58.2%) practicing in nonacademic settings who ordered BRCA1/2 testing during 2004 to 2005. We described physicians' experiences with testing and used multivariable regression models to identify factors associated with more complete counseling and with recommendations for cancer risk management for a BRCA1 mutation carrier.


Most physicians (68.2%) usually or always discussed six counseling items before testing. In adjusted analyses, physicians who were assisted by genetic counselors, nurse geneticists, or others (v counseling by themselves), those who spent more than 60 minutes in counseling, and medical oncologists (v surgeons or geneticists) were more likely to discuss all six items (all P < .05). A total of 61.4% of physicians would recommend bilateral prophylactic mastectomy to a 38-year-old BRCA1 mutation carrier who had completed childbearing. After adjustment, geneticists and gynecologists were less likely than medical oncologists and surgeons to recommend prophylactic mastectomy (P < .001), as were physicians in the Northeast versus those in other regions of the United States (P = .01).


Community-based physicians seem to be successfully incorporating BRCA1/2 testing into their practices. Physicians' recommendations for surveillance of mutation carriers are generally consistent with practice guidelines, yet recommendations for preference-based procedures such as prophylactic mastectomy vary by physician characteristics such as specialty and geographic region. The providers whom patients see for testing may contribute to variations in prophylactic treatments.

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