Do patients with breast cancer understand genomic test results?

May 1, 2010

A study involving 77 women with early stage breast cancer who underwent Oncotype DX, a genomic test that provides recurrence risk estimates to help plan adjuvant treatment, found that about one-third of patients did not fully understand subsequent discussions about their test results.

A study involving 77 women with early stage breast cancer who underwent Oncotype DX, a genomic test that provides recurrence risk estimates to help plan adjuvant treatment, found that about one-third of patients did not fully understand subsequent discussions about their test results. Investigators used mailed surveys, supplemented by medical chart review, to assess how the patients received and understood their recurrence risk information on the basis of the test. The study appeared in the journal Cancer.

Study participants had estrogen receptor-positive disease with 0 to 3 positive lymph nodes. Cancer recurrence risk was low in 50% of participants and intermediate in 37%. Most women (71%) accurately recalled their recurrence risk on the basis of the test, with a smaller proportion (67%) thinking that they understood much of what they were told about it. About 25% of participants recalled feeling anxious on hearing the results.

Women's perceived recurrence risk was associated not only with their actual genomic-based recurrence risks but also with having had a previous cancer diagnosis and being worried about recurrence.