Telephones Can Bring Cancer Genetic Counseling to Rural Women

Posted on June 21st, 2016 by msequeira

New follow up study shows cancer genetic counseling delivered by telephone as good as in-person counseling

Ever since Angelina Jolie used cancer genetic counseling and testing to learn about her risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, many other women have chosen to do the same. But for women in rural communities, traveling to meet in person with cancer genetic counselors can be time-consuming and expensive. Now, a new study shows that getting cancer genetic counseling over the phone can be just as good as getting the same counseling in person. The work, led by Anita Kinney, PhD, RN, at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

All the women who took part in the study were at increased risk for hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. The researchers divided the women into two groups. One group traveled to meet in person with a cancer genetic counselor and the other received counseling over the telephone. Both groups of women received teaching materials and letters about their risk in the mail. With the women’s permission, letters about their risk and how to manage it were mailed to their doctors.

One year after their counseling, the study assessed how the women felt: their anxiety and cancer-related distress, and how much control and how informed they felt about their risk and medical recommendations. It also tracked how many women went on to get genetic testing. Both groups benefited similarly from genetic counseling.

“This study provides important evidence that telephone counseling is an effective alternative to in-person counseling,” says Kinney. “It can help to make cancer genetic services more widely accessible, which is an important consideration in rural states like New Mexico. We hope that our study’s results will help increase health insurance coverage of telephone counseling so that more cancer patients and their family members can benefit from potentially lifesaving cancer risk information.”



About Anita Kinney, PhD, RN

Anita Kinney, PhD, RN

Anita Kinney, PhD, RN

Anita Kinney, PhD, RN, is a Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Internal Medicine, and is The Carolyn R. Surface Endowed Chair in Cancer Control and Population Sciences at University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She serves as Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the UNM Cancer Center. She also serves as the lead investigator for Cancer Care Delivery Research at the New Mexico Underserved/Minority site. Trained at the University of Pennsylvania, UT-Houston School of Public Health, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Kinney is an international and highly acclaimed expert in cancer prevention and public health. Her overarching research goal is to understand variation in cancer risk; determinants of risk and outcomes; and to use this information to develop effective interventions that facilitate access to quality care, promote cancer equity, informed decision-making and positive changes in health behaviors, cancer prevention care delivery and survivorship. With a particular emphasis on breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers, she is making improvements in reducing cancer risk and the way cancer care is delivered in diverse populations.


Paper Reference

“Randomized Noninferiority Trial of Telephone Delivery of BRCA1/2 Genetic Counseling Compared to In-person Counseling: One-Year Follow-up” was published in the June 20, 2016, online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology ( Authors include: Anita Y. Kinney, PhD, RN; Laurie E. Steffen, MS; Barbara H. Brumbach, PhD; Wendy Kohlmann, MS; Ruofei Du, PhD; Ji-Hyun Lee, DrPH; Amanda Gammon, MS; Karin Butler, PhD; Saundra S. Buys, MD; Antoinette M. Stroup, PhD; Rebecca A. Campo, PhD; Kristina G. Flores, PhD; Jeanne S. Mandelblatt, MD, MPH; and Marc D. Schwartz, PhD.


About the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius. One of the premier cancer centers nationwide, the UNM CCC has 125 board-certified oncology physicians, forming New Mexico’s largest cancer care team. It treats about 60 percent of adults and virtually all the children in New Mexico diagnosed with cancer — more than 10,000 people— from every county in the state in more than 135,000 clinic visits each year. Through its partnership with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, an “exemplary national model for cancer health care delivery,” the UNM CCC offers access to more than 175 clinical trials to New Mexicans in every part of the state. Annual research funding of more than $72 million supports the UNM CCC’s 129 cancer scientists. Working with partners at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and New Mexico State University, they have developed new diagnostics and drugs for leukemia, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, liver and pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, and melanoma; garnered 33 new patents and 117 patents pending; and launched 13 new biotechnology companies since 2010. Learn more at


UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center Contact Information

Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, 505-340-5929,
Michele Sequeira, UNM Cancer Center, 505-925-0486,



Tags: delivery, genetic counseling, genetic testing

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