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Genet Med. 2011 Sep;13(9):785-93. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e31821afc8e.

Educational needs about cancer family history and genetic counseling for cancer risk among frontline healthcare clinicians in New York City.

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Department of Oncological Sciences, Cancer Prevention and Control, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, New York 10029, USA.



This study investigated the educational needs of frontline healthcare clinicians about cancer family history and genetic counseling for cancer risk.


We conducted a voluntary, anonymous survey among (1) general medicine clinicians, (2) obstetrics/gynecology clinicians, and (3) nurse practitioners at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


A total of 143 clinicians completed the survey (response rate 81%). The majority of clinicians (77.5%) reported regularly completing family histories on cancer risk for their patients, but only 1.7% considered themselves "experts" in interpreting risk to make prevention, screening, and treatment recommendations. Numerous barriers to cancer family history collection were noted. More than half (55.8%) reported referring patients to genetic counseling, although only 14.3% reported confidence in their ability to make appropriate referrals. The majority reported that they would apply genetic counseling for cancer risk in their practice if they had the skills (84.9%). There was some variability found regarding specialty.


Despite widespread use of family histories for cancer risk, barriers remain to appropriate cancer risk management among frontline healthcare clinicians. Development of educational training programs to assist clinicians with collection of cancer family history information, interpretation, and appropriate referral along with teaching direct application of a modified form of genetic counseling for low-medium risk patients and referral of patients at genetic risk is warranted.

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