Aim: In order for genomic testing to reach its full promise in helping cancer patients prevent future disease, it is important that they act on the results that they receive. We designed this study to explore the factors that participants perceived would impact behavioural intentions following receipt of genomic sequencing results.
Methods: Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sub-sample of 24 adults with a cancer of likely genetic aetiology who undertook genomic sequencing as part of a larger genetic study (the RiSC study). Participants were interviewed at 12 months following their consent to a longitudinal psychosocial sub-study of RiSC (the PiGeOn study), before receipt of results. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and data saturation was reached.
Results: Analysis revealed three main themes: facilitators, barriers and motivators to behaviour change. The primary goal for behavioural change was to be healthy for oneself and one’s family. Future receipt of actionable genomic sequencing results was seen as a powerful driver of behaviour change. Past experience of cancer facilitated positive modifications to lifestyle, such as increased exercise and healthy diet, higher prioritisation of mental health and well-being, and having regular health check-ups and tests; however, maintaining these changes was difficult for some due to daily commitments and lack of emotional control. Limited knowledge and the inevitability of developing cancer due to genetic predisposition were seen as barriers to making lifestyle changes.
Conclusions: Understanding the barriers and facilitators to behaviour change in the context of genomic sequencing can guide healthcare professionals in offering tailored care, support and therapy to patients and to manage patients’ expectations.