Genetic Counseling: Families’ experiences accessing care after genomic sequencing in the pediatric cancer context: “It’s just been a big juggle” (Tomlinson)


Access to genomic sequencing (GS) and resulting recommendations have not been well described in pediatric oncology. GS results may provide a cancer predisposition syndrome (CPS) diagnosis that warrants screening and specialist visits beyond cancer treatment, including testing or surveillance for family members. The Texas KidsCanSeq (KCS) Study evaluated the implementation of GS in a diverse pediatric oncology population. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n = 20) to explore the experiences of KCS patients’ families around learning about a CPS diagnosis and following up on recommended care. We used qualitative content analysis to develop themes and subthemes across families’ descriptions of their experiences accessing care and to understand which factors presented barriers and/or facilitators. We found participants had difficulty differentiating which follow-up care recommendations were made for their child’s current cancer treatment versus the CPS. In families’ access to follow-up care for CPS, organizational factors were crucial: travel time and distance were common hardships, while coordination of care to streamline multiple appointments with different providers helped facilitate CPS care. Financial factors also impacted families’ access to CPS-related follow-up care: having financial assistance and insurance were facilitators for families, while costs and lack of insurance posed barriers for patients who lost coverage during transitions from pediatric to adult care and for adult family members who had no coverage. Factors related to beliefs and perceptions, specifically perceiving the risk as less salient to them and feeling overwhelmed with the patient’s cancer care, presented barriers to follow-up care primarily for family members. Regarding social factors, competing life priorities made it difficult for families to access follow-up care, though having community support alleviated these barriers. We suggest interventions to improve the coordination of cancer treatment and CPS-related care and adherence to surveillance protocols for families as children age, such as care navigators, and integrating longitudinal genetic counseling into hereditary cancer centers.

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Article Categories: Research Paper

Since 2004, UT Health San Antonio, Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute’s (Greehey CCRI) mission has been to advance scientific knowledge relevant to childhood cancer, contribute to understanding its causes, and accelerate the translation of knowledge into novel therapies. Greehey CCRI strives to have a national and global impact on childhood cancer by discovering, developing, and disseminating new scientific knowledge. Our mission consists of three key areas — research, clinical, and education.

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