One goal of cancer genetic counseling is to improve early detection and prevention of cancers by identifying individuals at risk and providing screening recommendations. This study determined the impact of genetic counseling and testing on patient's post-genetic risk assessment colorectal cancer screening behaviors. Follow-up data from patients seen August, 1996, through May, 1998, at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic were analyzed. Eligible patients included those without cancer who were due for a colon examination by the time of follow-up, based on recommendations given during genetic risk assessment (GRA). We analyzed the role of gender, age, time since GRA, prior screening, genetic testing decision, mutation status, and post-GRA screening. Of 65 patients evaluated, 50 (76.9%) had undergone at least one endoscopic colon exam prior to visiting the Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic. At the time of GRA, 37 of 65 (56.9%) were overdue for a colon exam and at the time of follow-up, 15/65 (23.1%) were past due (p < 0.001). Patients with mutation-positive genetic tests were more likely to adhere to screening guidelines than those with negative gene tests (100% vs. 40.5%,p = 0.05). Genetic counseling and testing increases overall patient adherence with recommended colon screening, especially for those with positive genetic test results. However, patients with negative results may receive false reassurance about cancer risks and fail to follow recommended screening. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of screening even when genetic test results are negative.
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