Hereditary cancer risk assessment is the key to identifying patients and families who are at increased risk for developing cancer. The knowledge generated by cancer risk assessment impacts clinical decisions that obstetricians and gynecologists and their patients make every day. Previvors—patients predisposed to developing cancer, because of their family history or a pathogenic gene variant, who have not had cancer—benefit from counseling, heightened surveillance, and medical and surgical options.
For the last 25 years, this field has been growing dramatically, and although the scientific advances are present, only 15.3% of patients with a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer who meet hereditary cancer testing criteria have been tested.1 As many as 1 in 4 women who present for a gynecologic examination may have a personal history or a family history that qualifies them for genetic testing.2
Cancer risk app considerations
The ability to leverage mobile device applications can provide clinicians and patients with a useful screening tool to identify women who are at increased cancer risk. Only a handful of apps are available today and most are geared to patients. Such apps explore the different testing modalities, including genetic testing, as well as treatment options. When evaluating the best app for patients, using the ACOG-recommended rubric shown on page 35, the qualities to keep in mind and that should score 4 out of 4 include design, authority, usefulness, and accuracy.
A few apps provide reminders for appointments, such as mammograms, magnetic resonance imaging, or breast self-exams, and allow patients to track treatment plans. To date, no app addresses prevention and treatment opportunities that are specific to patients who have a hereditary predisposition. At least one app lists hereditary cancer testing guidelines. Many more apps are geared toward individuals with cancer rather than toward previvors.
As ObGyns, we have an opportunity to educate and identify women and, subsequently, better counsel women identified as at increased risk for developing cancer. We can utilize medical apps to efficiently incorporate this screening into clinical practice. ●