Paediatrics (RCH) - Theses

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    Exploring the experiences of people who have consented to tumour testing for a hereditary disposition to cancer
    Opat, Annette ( 2009)
    Due to the costly and technically challenging nature of genetic testing, methods have been developed to target more specifically those who are at increased risk of carrying the Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) mutation. HNPCC is an inherited colorectal cancer syndrome. Testing of tumour material (which has previously been removed during surgery) for features of HNPCC has been found to be an effective and economic method of identifying those at higher risk of having a mutation. Only those at higher risk of having a mutation will undergo genetic testing. This practice of “tumour testing” has become widespread. There is currently no clarity about requirements for consent prior to testing of stored tumour tissue. The person giving consent to tumour testing does not always have an appointment with a genetics service prior to giving consent. This can be contrasted to genetic testing on blood samples where laws and guidelines state that informed consent is required prior to genetic testing and that comprehensive genetic counselling and support should be provided as part of this process. Protocols for genetic testing have been developed as a result of extensive research around the impact and implications of genetic testing. Consumer opinion and participation through research is an important aspect of health policy and guideline development. Accordingly the purpose of this study was to contribute to such development by gaining insight into the experiences, understandings, decision making processes and opinions of those who had given consent to have their own or their relatives tumour tested. Seventeen people who had given consent for tumour testing either for themselves, or on behalf of a deceased relative were recruited through a Familial Cancer Centre and in-depth interviews conducted. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Some participants had no memory of consenting to tumour testing. Others remembered basic concepts. Negative implications of testing were unknown or viewed as unimportant. Participants did not understand the difference between tumour testing and germline testing. Despite lack of memory or understanding participants did not want additional or more detailed pre-test information although they did want more follow-up and support after receipt of results. The decision to consent to testing was made as soon as participants were informed of the availability of tumour testing - the major reason being to provide information for the family that would aid in cancer prevention. Participants were more concerned with accessibility to testing than pre test information and counselling. Findings in this study indicated participants made decisions heuristically rather than systematically and this as well as participants’ opinions and other decision-making research has implications for the traditional view of informed consent around genetic related decisions. This in turn has implications for policy and guidelines in the area. Implications for current practise as a result of findings from this study include ensuring participants understand negative implications of testing and follow up and support of those with negative as well as positive results to tumour testing.