Knowledge about hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer; mutation carriers and physicians at equal levels.BMC Med Genet. 2009 Mar 26; 10:30.BM
Identification and adequate management of individuals at risk for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is crucial since surveillance programmes reduce morbidity and mortality. We investigated knowledge about key features of HNPCC in at risk individuals and physicians in surgery, gynecology and oncology.
Data were collected using a questionnaire which was answered by 67 mutation carriers and 102 physicians from the southern Swedish health care region. The statements were related to colorectal cancer, heredity and surveillance and the physicians were also asked questions about cancer risks and surveillance strategies.
Both groups answered questions on colorectal cancer risk, surveillance and genetic testing well, whereas answers about inheritance and risks for HNPCC associated cancer were less accurate. Only half of the family members and one third of the physicians correctly estimated the risk to inherit an HNPCC predisposing mutation. Among family members, young age (<57 years), female sex and recent genetic counseling significantly correlated with better results. Physicians generally underestimated the risk of HNPCC associated cancers and three out of four suggested a later starting age for surveillance than recommended.
The finding of similar levels of knowledge about key features of HNPCC in at risk individuals and physicians reflect the challenge physicians face in keeping up to date on hereditary cancer and may have implications for the clinical management and professional relations with HNPCC family members.