Differences In Individual Approaches: Communication in the Familial Breast Cancer Consultation and the Effect on Patient Outcomes

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Nursing, Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine / WA Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care




Lobb, E. A., Butow, P., Barratt, A., Meiser, B., & Tucker, K. (2005). Differences in individual approaches: Communication in the familial breast cancer consultation and the effect on patient outcomes. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 14(1), 43-53. Available here


This multicenter study aimed to assess (i) whether individual clinical geneticists and genetic counselors vary in their communication skills and (ii) whether this variation in communication impacts on patient outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, genetics knowledge, and satisfaction. One hundred and fifty women from high-risk breast cancer families attending their first genetic counseling consultation completed pre and post-consultation self-report questionnaires. The consultations were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Univariate analyses showed highly significant differences between individual clinical geneticists and genetic counselors in: facilitating understanding (p ≤ 0.001); facilitating active involvement (p ≤ 0.001); facilitating partnership building (p = 0.003); addressing emotional concerns (p ≤ 0.001); and discussing prophylactic mastectomy (p = 0.017). Multivariate linear regressions showed that this variation in communication resulted in a greater change in patient’s depression 4 weeks after the counseling session (p = 0.017). These findings suggest clinical geneticists and genetic counselors have achieved some standardization in communicating information, but showed diversity in their facilitation skills. Communication skills may be a useful area to explore further in this field.




Link to publisher version (DOI)