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Genetic Testing Program Links Community Providers and Specialists

Dr. Klemp and Dr. Nye

As much as 14 percent of breast cancer cases are tied to a genetic predisposition. In Kansas, most people diagnosed with breast cancer and meeting evidence-based guidelines for genetic testing have not been tested. Genetic testing may help individuals make decisions about their treatment and understand their risk for other cancers.

To address this issue, Jennifer Klemp, PhD, MPH, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention & Control research program, initiated a program targeted at community providers. Called Efficacy of Point of Service Testing-Breast Cancer (ePOST-BC), the series links those providing healthcare in Kansas communities with experts in cancer genetics by leveraging the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Model. Rather than the traditional telemedicine approach where a specialist directly manages patient care, the specialist arms providers with the knowledge they need to provide the latest in quality care close to home. Roy Jensen, MD, cancer center director, serves on the national Project ECHO Advisory Board.

Dr. Klemp, with co-primary investigator, Lauren Nye, MD, and the team met virtually with individuals located in 10 rural and community practices across Kansas. About 76 people participated and more than half were physicians, advance practice providers or nurses. More than half of participants reported an increase in genetic education knowledge and subsequent testing for their patients following the ECHO program. 

While certainly a step in the right direction, there is more to do. One in three participants reported that staffing was a primary barrier to point-of-service education and testing. Next steps for Dr. Klemp and her team will involve bringing technology and standardized tools into practice to help address that burden.

“Engagement over a virtual platform can be a challenge, but we were encouraged by the number of participants who were interested and willing to engage to learn more about cancer genetics,” Dr. Klemp said. “The key is to keep moving forward. Finding new ways to engage partners and advance knowledge is vital to our discipline, our professional development and most importantly, our patients.”

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