CE Course On Psychosocial Needs of Women Undergoing Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer Updated at HealthForumOnline

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HealthForumOnline (HFO) has recently updated The Psychosocial Needs of Women Undergoing Genetic Counseling and Testing in the Breast Cancer Context, an online continuing education (CE) course for mental health professionals, to reflect advances in the field of genetics and clinical implications. HFO offers over 95 nationally-approved online CE courses for psychologists, social workers, counselors, marital family therapists and other allied health care providers that are fast, convenient and especially cost-effective - with free ongoing access to course updates beyond completion of the CE activity.

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... it would appear that knowledge about the psychological and behavioral implications of genetic screening will become even more germane to the work of mental health professionals.

HealthForumOnline (HFO) is pleased to announce that it has recently updated its online CE course entitled, The Psychosocial Needs of Women Undergoing Genetic Counseling and Testing in the Breast Cancer Context; one of nine online CE courses in HFO’s Cancer Adaptation category in our extensive CE resource library for mental health professionals and other allied health care workers.

Genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer has been clinically available since 1995. The majority of hereditary breast cancers are associated with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) tumor suppressor genes, accounting for 5-10% of all cases of breast cancer (1-2) or between 8,000 to 17,000 new BRCA1/2-related breast cancer cases annually in the U.S. (3). In the U.S., cumulative breast cancer risk at age 70 is 46-57% in BRCA1 carriers and 43-49% in BRCA2 carriers; cumulative ovarian cancer risk 39-40% in BRCA1 carriers and 18-22% in BRCA2 carriers, far exceeding the general population risk of 13% for breast cancer and 1.4% for ovarian cancer (4-5).

Testing for BRCA1/2 mutations has steadily moved into mainstream clinical practice as technology advanced and choices regarding risk reduction and prophylactic options became better understood. Emerging evidence regarding BRCA mutation prevalence in low-cancer-incidence families and, by extension, the general population has led experts to call for more universal testing (6). Most notably, Dr. Mary-Claire King, who discovered BRCA1, recently recommended every U.S. woman age 30 and older undergo screening independent of family history (7), although this remains a controversial recommendation and is not yet standard care. Another gene PALB2 has recently been revealed to be nearly as important as the BRCA2 gene in breast cancer risk (8). Although PALB2 mutations are very rare, accounting for only 1 - 2% of inherited breast cancers, genetic tests that screen for PALB2 mutations are already available.

With genetic testing poised to recast medicine, health professionals will increasingly encounter patients who have undergone genetic counseling and testing, as well as those considering it for themselves or for other family members. While many health providers have a basic knowledge about the hereditary aspect of breast cancer and BRCA testing, they may not fully understand the complex decision-process and psychological sequelae for patients, or the distress testing might cause to family members. Given the scientific advances in and availability of genetic testing in the breast cancer context, it would appear that knowledge about the psychological and behavioral implications of genetic screening will become even more germane to the work of mental health professionals.

This recently updated online CE course provides mental health professionals with information to help meet the psychological needs of their patients in the breast cancer genetic testing context. Specifically, the course reviews the BRCA1/2 genetic counseling and testing process, test results and their implications, and risk management strategies for BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. Further, it summarizes the psychosocial impact of genetic counseling and testing, and presents strategies for assessing the psychological impact of BRCA1/2 counseling and testing in clinical practice.

1.    Miki, Y., et al. (1994). A strong candidate for the breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1. Science, 266(5182), 66-71.
2.    Wooster, R., et al. (1995). Identification of the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA2. Nature, 378(6559), 789-792.
3.    ACS. (2010). Cancer facts and figures - 2010. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society.
4.    Chen, S., et al. (2006). Characterization of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in a large United States sample. J Clin Oncol, 24(6), 863-871.
5.    Chen, S. & Parmigiani, G. (2007). Meta-analysis of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Penetrance. J Clin Oncol, 25(11), 1329-1333.
6.    King, M.C. (2014). The race to clone BRCA1. Science, 343(6178), 1462-1465.
7.    King, M., Levy-Lahad, E., & Lahad, A. (2014). Population-Based Screening for BRCA1 and BRCA2: 2014 Lasker Award. JAMA, 312(11),1091-1092.
8.    Antoniou, A.C., et al. (2014). Breast-Cancer Risk in Families with Mutations in PALB2. New England Journal of Medicine, 371(6), 497-506.

About HealthForumOnline:

HealthForumOnline (HFO) is approved as a provider of CE courses by the American Psychological Association, the National Board of Certified Counselors, the Association of Social Work Boards, and the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses and other allied health professionals can now chose from over 95 courses from our 20 categories of topics related to health psychology and behavioral medicine. Health professionals can complete CE courses at their own pace, on their own schedule, anywhere they have Internet access – generating their own CE certificate.

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Michelle Rodoletz, Ph.D.
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