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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Genetics of Breast and Ovarian Cancer (PDQ®): Genetics - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Psychosocial Issues in Inherited Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndromes

Table 13. Predictors Associated with Uptake of Genetic Testing (GT) continued...

Some studies have examined reactions to BRCA testing several years after the receipt of results. Two U.S.-based studies have reported similar findings among women who were surveyed more than 3 years after receipt of BRCA test results.[126,127] In a cross-sectional study,[126] 167 women who were surveyed more than 4 years after receiving BRCA test results reported low levels of genetic testing-specific concerns, as measured using the Multidimensional Impact of Cancer Risk Assessment Scale.[128] Approximately 74% of women reported no distress; 41% reported no uncertainty about their cancer risk, screening decisions, and options for risk management and prevention; and 51% reported positive experiences suggestive of low adverse reactions pertaining to family support and communication.[126] In multivariate regression models, mutation carriers were significantly more likely to experience distress than were noncarriers. Time since disclosure of test result significantly predicted uncertainty but not distress, such that more time since disclosure corresponded to less uncertainty. In a second study, 464 women were followed prospectively for a median of 5 years (range: 3.4-9.1 years) after testing. Among both affected and unaffected participants, BRCA carriers reported significantly higher levels of distress, uncertainty (affected only), perceived stress (affected only), and lower positive testing experiences (unaffected only) than women who received negative results.[127] Although both studies reported greater distress among BRCA carriers than among noncarriers, the level of distress was not reflective of clinically significant dysfunction.

A prospective Australian study evaluated the psychological impact of genetic testing at baseline, 7 to 10 days, 4 months, and 12 months in 60 women of AJ heritage (10 with breast cancer, 50 unaffected). Of the 43 women who opted to learn their test results, 97% felt pleased to have had the test and, at 12 months of follow-up, none regretted having been tested. Seventeen women opted not to receive their results and had significantly lower levels of breast cancer anxiety than did those who opted to receive their results. Women with no history of cancer who opted to learn their results showed a progressive decrease in breast cancer anxiety over the 12-month study period compared with baseline measures. There was also no statistically significant difference in measures of depression and generalized anxiety from baseline to the follow-up assessments.[129] However, only 7 of 43 women had deleterious mutations, which may influence interpretation of test results.

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