Insufficient Referral for Genetic Counseling in the Management of Hereditary Haemochromatosis in Portugal: A Study of Perceptions of Health Professionals Requesting HFE Genotyping

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Abstract

There is a general consensus that HFE- related Hereditary Haemochromatosis (HFE-HH) should be diagnosed at early stages in pre-symptomatic individuals, in order to prevent the most severe consequences of iron overload. In Portugal, despite an increasing number of requests for genetic diagnosis of this rare disease, there is not a corresponding increase in requests for genetic counselling. The objective of the present study was to evaluate physicians’ main motivations for requesting HFE genotyping or genetic counselling for HFE-HH. We assessed current medical practices regarding family testing and diagnosis and discuss whether these can be improved in order to increase the effectiveness of disease prevention. Our results show there is a general lack of knowledge about the selection of patient cases that should be sent for genetic counseling or for molecular testing of HFE-HH by physicians (especially by general practitioners). The lack of family-based screening may indirectly compromise the efficiency of disease prevention in terms of early diagnosis and treatment. We concluded it is necessary to circulate more information about Hereditary Haemochromatosis among health professionals in order to improve strategies for its early diagnosis.