Is it up to me to determine my risk for cancer? And if it is, how can I possibly make an informed decision?
I was asked to sign a new consent form at my breast screening yesterday. It was a consent for my family history to be screened by counselors to detect my risk for cancer. If they determined that I was at risk the counselor would call me to set up an appointment to discuss the findings. At that time I could decide if genetic testing was something I would want to pursue.
I had to read the consent twice because it didn’t make sense to me. If I filled out my family history on the prior page was it true that no one would look at it unless I signed this consent? Why bother to fill it out if no one was going to look at it.
It makes sense to me that not every one would want to have the genetic testing, BRCA 1, BRCA 2. But it doesn’t make sense that my doctor, or the breast imaging center staff, wouldn’t assess my risk without my consent.
It seems to me that many people would not sign this consent out of fear. Because they don’t want to know. Isn’t this the reason that masses don’t go for their screening in the first place?
If I am at the facility, this means I have already seen my doctor who ordered the tests. You have me. You ask me to fill out a family history, which makes me really think about the possibility of cancer. Then you ask me if I want you to determine my risk.
All of this is prior to an exam that elicits fear in most women.
I am not an expert and it seems to me that the doctor, who is an expert, should assess the risk and then present you with the question of whether genetic testing is something you would want to pursue. Isn’t the doctor better equipped to make the decision to start the process? Is this a question of liability? Is this a question of money?
My tests were performed and I got a clean bill of health for which I am so grateful!
If I had known the outcome prior to the testing maybe the consent form would not have bothered me so much. But that is my point…this is a very emotional subject and the onus for determining the risk should not rest on the patient.