The impact of Angelina Jolie's (AJ) story on genetic referral and testing at an academic cancer centre.

Risk Assessment, Prevention, Early Detection, and Screening
Session Type and Session Title: 
General Poster Session B: Risk Assessment, Prevention, Early Detection,  Screening, and Systemic Therapy
Abstract Number: 
J Clin Oncol 32, 2014 (suppl 26; abstr 44)
Jacques Raphael, Sunil Verma, Paul Hewitt, Andrea Eisen; Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada

Abstract Disclosures


Background: In May 2013, AJ revealed to the media that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy. The actress had a family history of breast and ovarian cancer and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Media coverage has been extensive, but it’s not clear what messages the public and professional medical staff took from this personal story that sometimes could be misleading. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review in our centre using data from the clinical database of the Familial Cancer Program in a tertiary care cancer centre. The impact of AJ’s story on genetic counseling referrals was assessed by comparing the number of referrals made 6 months before and after the story. In addition, the quality of referrals was reported by comparing the number of patients who qualified for genetic testing as defined by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the ones who carried a BRCA1/2 mutation before and after the media release. Results: The number of women referred for genetic counseling increased by 85% after the release of AJ’s story (479 before versus 887 after). This translated to an increase of 99% in the number of women who qualified for a genetic testing (211 before versus 419 after). Among them, 120 and 254 women had a history of breast and ovarian cancer in their family, 16 and 37 women had a history of male breast cancer in their family, and 28 and 15 women were diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35 or less before and after AJ’s story respectively. Furthermore, the number of BRCA1/2 carriers identified increased by 107% (29 (14 BRCA1, 15 BRCA2) before and 60 (32 BRCA1, 28 BRCA2) after). Conclusions: This study clearly shows that the number of genetic referrals doubled after AJ’s story. Nevertheless, the quality of referral remained the same with nearly the same percentage of patients who qualified for genetic testing and who were identified as BRCA1/2 carriers. The challenge is to meet the increased demand for cancer genetic services including screening, counseling, testing, and preventive surgery. After AJ’s story the current model of genetic counseling may need to be revisited.