Patients' experiences and views of cascade screening for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH): a qualitative study.
Hallowell N., Jenkins N., Douglas M., Walker S., Finnie R., Porteous M., Lawton J.
Familial DNA cascade screening for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) has recently been introduced in Scotland. This study investigated index patients' experiences of DNA testing and mediating cascade screening. Thirty-eight patients with a clinical diagnosis of definite or possible FH who had undergone DNA testing in the lipid clinic took part in semi-structured qualitative interviews. All patients were positive about DNA screening being undertaken by familiar and trusted clinicians within the lipid clinic. Most patients had already cascaded close relatives for serum cholesterol testing following their attendance at the lipid clinic. Identified mutation carriers who had attended the genetics clinic (n = 15) for a cascading appointment described finding this consultation helpful because it identified other at-risk family members and provided them with tailored information for their relatives. Participants who expressed a preference said they favoured indirect (patient-mediated) methods of cascading as they considered indirect approaches to be less threatening to family members than direct clinical contact. We conclude that DNA screening and indirect familial cascading is perceived as highly acceptable to index patients with FH. However, while indirect cascading methods may be more acceptable to patients, they do not yield the same numbers as more direct methods. There is, therefore, a need for further systematic research to investigate patients', family members' and staff views of the acceptability of direct versus indirect methods of cascade screening.