Online accounts of gene expression profiling in early stage breast cancer: Interpreting genomic testing for chemotherapy decision-making

Emily Ross, Julia Swallow, Anne Kerr, Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Genomic techniques are being developed within oncology and beginning to be experienced within routine cancer care. Little is known about how these tools feature in patients' experiences of treatment decision making.

OBJECTIVE: This research explores the ways in which women interpret and discuss gene expression profiling for breast cancer treatment decision making, as articulated within online accounts.

DESIGN: This study used a qualitative approach to analyse written exchanges focusing on gene expression profiling in the UK (Oncotype DX test). Accounts are taken from online forums hosted by two UK cancer charity websites, comprising 132 discussion threads from a total of seven forums. Authors qualitatively analysed the data and developed key themes drawing on existing literature from medical sociology.

FINDINGS: Women used online spaces to share and discuss results of gene expression profiling. Women interpreted results in the context of indirect experience of cancer treatment, and sociocultural depictions of cancer and chemotherapy. Users largely represented the test positively, emphasizing its ability to "personalize" treatment pathways, though many also pointed to inherent uncertainties with regards the possibility of cancer recurrence.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: We highlight the complex contexts in which genomic techniques are experienced, with these shaped by personal biographies, online environments and pervasive cultural narratives of cancer and its treatment. We highlight tensions between the claims of genomic testing to aid treatment decision making and patient reflections on the capability of these techniques to resolve uncertainties surrounding treatment decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-82
JournalHealth Expectations
Volume22
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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