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Exploring the cancer risk perception and interest in genetic services among Indigenous people in Queensland, Australia

Authors

  • Christina M. Bernardes,

    Corresponding author
    1. Epidemiology and Health Systems Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Queensland
    • Correspondence to: Dr Christina M. Bernardes, Menzies School of Health Research, Epidemiology and Health Systems Division, PO Box 10639, Adelaide Street, Brisbane, Queensland 4000; e-mail: christina.bernardes@menzies.edu.au

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  • Patricia C. Valery,

    1. Epidemiology and Health Systems Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Queensland
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  • Gail Garvey

    1. Epidemiology and Health Systems Division, Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Queensland
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  • The authors have stated they have no conflict of interest.

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study is to explore the levels of interest among Indigenous people with cancer in identifying cancer risk in their family and seeking genetic counselling/testing.

Design and setting: A cross-sectional survey of Indigenous cancer patients recruited from four major treating hospitals in Queensland. Participants’ family history of cancer and interest in genetic counselling/testing was sought using a structured questionnaire.

Results: Overall, 73.0% of 252 participants reported having a family history of cancer; of those, 52.8% had at least one first-degree relative with cancer. A total of 68.3% of participants indicated concern about relatives being affected by cancer and 54.4% of participants indicated they would like to assess the cancer risk in their family with a specialist. Concern was associated with willingness to discuss the risk of cancer with a specialist (p<0.001).

Conclusions: Indigenous cancer patients do have a family history of cancer and appear willing to undergo genetic counselling/investigation. It is of great concern that this population could miss the benefits of the technological advances in health care, creating a much larger disparity in health outcomes.

Implications: Health service providers should not assume that Indigenous cancer patients will not follow their recommendations when referred to genetic counselling/investigation services.

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