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J Clin Oncol. 1998 Aug;16(8):2868-76.

Decision-making about breast cancer susceptibility testing: how similar are the attitudes of physicians, nurse practitioners, and at-risk women?

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Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



To determine what consumers and providers would want to discuss about breast cancer susceptibility testing (BCST) and their preferred role in testing decisions.


We surveyed 426 at-risk women, 143 nurse practitioners, and 296 physicians in five specialties in Maryland.


All groups believe it is important to discuss how the chance of breast cancer can be reduced and what the chances are of getting breast cancer if the test is positive. Both provider groups attributed more importance than consumers to discussing whether cancer can occur if the test is negative. Discussing the risk of depression and anxiety was more important to providers than consumers. Eighty-two percent of women would want their providers to make a recommendation about testing, but only 43% of nurse practitioners and 68% of physicians would do so. Eighteen percent of physicians underestimated the importance of informed consent for testing and 34% of discussing the risk of insurance discrimination. Fewer than 6% of women, if found to have a mutation, would be likely to undergo prophylactic mastectomy, whereas 12% of nurse practitioners and 34% of physicians would be likely to recommend such surgery. One third of respondents in all three groups supported testing a 13-year old daughter of a mutation-carrier.


Physicians should place greater value on informed consent and discussing practical aspects of testing, and physicians and nurse practitioners should pay more attention to the limitations of testing children, insurance discrimination, and consumers' desire for provider recommendations. In light of the limited discordance between nurse practitioners and consumers, nurse practitioners can play an increasing role in education and counseling about BCST.

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