Familial Cancer

, 8:403 | Cite as

Cancer genetic predisposition: information needs of patients irrespective of risk level

  • Alison Metcalfe
  • Julie Werrett
  • Lucy Burgess
  • Cyril Chapman
  • Collette Clifford


Increased insight into the information needs of people about cancer genetic predisposition could allow materials to be developed to improve decision-making for those at high risk, whilst those at lower risk could have their anxiety reduced without the need for referral to genetics services. This study aimed to identify information needs of patients concerned about a genetic predisposition to cancer, and explore how this varied according to risk perception, cancer worry, personal motivation and demographics. Stage 1 used semi-structured telephone interviews pre and post participants’ genetic risk assessment. The findings informed stage two, a structured questionnaire survey of 1,112 patients, pre and post their genetic risk assessment. Participants were stratified by risk level and included those concerned about an inherited predisposition to breast, ovarian or colorectal cancer. About 512 (46%) responded with equal proportions of responders and non-responders across the risk categories. Findings indicated that irrespective of a person’s actual or perceived level of risk, cancer worry, demographic background or personal motivation; priorities in the type of information required were similar. Greatest emphasis focused on information provision about how risk was assessed. Least important was acquiring an understanding about genes and inheritance patterns. Most participants reported difficulties accessing or finding information. Peoples’ information needs are consistent irrespective of their risk level and therefore generalised information packages could be developed for anyone requesting cancer genetic risk assessment. Better information is likely to assist patients’ understanding and ultimately increase concordance with recommended screening and preventative measures.


Familial cancer Genetic counselling Genetic predisposition Information Patient education 



Patients and health professionals of the West Midlands Regional Genetics Unit who participated in this study. The advice and support of our steering group including Anna Aldred (nee Lane) from the Genetics Interest Group). Special thanks to Deb Onions and her colleagues who provided the administrative support for the study and Gill Plumridge for help with data inputting. We would also wish to acknowledge and thank the BUPA Foundation for funding this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Metcalfe
    • 1
  • Julie Werrett
    • 1
  • Lucy Burgess
    • 2
  • Cyril Chapman
    • 2
  • Collette Clifford
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Health & Population Science, College of Medicine & DentistryUniversity of BirminghamEdgbaston, BirminghamUK
  2. 2.West Midlands Regional Genetics UnitBirmingham Women Hospital NHS TrustEdgbaston, BirminghamUK

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