Negotiating jurisdictional boundaries in response to new genetic possibilities in breast cancer care: The creation of an 'oncogenetic taskscape'

Sarah Wright, Mary Porteous, Diane Stirling, Oliver Young, Charlie Gourley, Nina Hallowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in the nature and structure of healthcare pathways have implications for healthcare professionals' jurisdictional boundaries. The introduction of treatment focused BRCA1 and 2 genetic testing (TFGT) for newly diagnosed patients with breast cancer offers a contemporary example of pathway change brought about by technological advancements in gene testing and clinical evidence, and reflects the cultural shift towards genomics. Forming part of an ethnographically informed study of patient and practitioner experiences of TFGT at a UK teaching hospital, this paper focuses on the impact of a proposal to pilot a mainstreamed TFGT pathway on healthcare professionals' negotiations of professional jurisdiction. Based upon semi-structured interviews (n = 19) with breast surgeons, medical oncologists and members of the genetics team, alongside observations of breast multidisciplinary team meetings, during the time leading up to the implementation of the pilot, we describe how clinicians responded to the anticipated changes associated with mainstreaming. Interviews suggest that mainstreaming the breast cancer pathway, and the associated jurisdictional reconfigurations, had advocates as well as detractors. Medical oncologists championed the plans, viewing this adaptation in care provision and their professional role as a logical next step. Breast surgeons, however, regarded mainstreaming as an unfeasible expansion of their workload and questioned the relevance of TFGT to their clinical practice. The genetics team, who introduced the pilot, appeared cautiously optimistic about the potential changes. Drawing on sociological understandings of the negotiation of professional jurisdictions our work contributes a timely, micro-level examination of the responses among clinicians as they worked to renegotiate professional boundaries in response to the innovative application of treatment-focused BRCA testing in cancer care – a local and dynamic process which we refer to as an ‘oncogenetic taskscape in the making’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • UK
  • professional jurisdictions
  • cancer care
  • taskscape
  • genomics
  • maistreaming
  • personalised medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Negotiating jurisdictional boundaries in response to new genetic possibilities in breast cancer care: The creation of an 'oncogenetic taskscape''. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this