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Psychosocial Issues in Inherited Breast Cancer Syndromes

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    Several studies have compared the provision of breast cancer genetics services by different providers and the psychological impact on women at high and low risk of cancer. In a study of 735 women at all hereditary breast/ovarian cancer risk levels, the services of a multidisciplinary team of genetics specialists was compared with services provided by surgeons. There were no significant differences between groups in anxiety, cancer worry, or perceived risk.[119] In a Scottish study of 373 participants, an alternative model of cancer genetics services using genetics nurse specialists in community-based services was compared with standard genetics regional services. There was no difference in cancer worry or change in health behaviors between the two groups. Cancer worry decreased for both groups over a 6-month period. Women who dropped out of the study tended to be in the nurse provider arm or were at low risk of breast cancer.[120] In a small U.S. study, an evaluation of nurses and genetic counselors as providers of education about breast cancer susceptibility testing was conducted to compare outcomes of pretest education about breast cancer susceptibility. Four genetic counselors and two nurses completed specialized training in cancer genetics. Women receiving pretest education from nurses were as satisfied with information received and had equal degrees of perceived autonomy and partnership. The study findings suggest that with proper training and supervision, both genetic counselors and nurses can be effective in providing pretest education to women considering genetic susceptibility testing for breast cancer risk.[121]

    There has been little empirical research in the communication of risk assessments to individuals at risk of breast/ovarian cancer syndromes. When asked to choose a preferred method, individuals undergoing genetic counseling for breast and ovarian cancer appear to prefer quantitative to qualitative presentation of risk information.[122,123] One study indicated that most women wanted information given both ways.[49] Information about the risk of developing breast cancer among women with a family history of breast cancer may be more accurately recalled when presented as odds ratios rather than in other forms.[124]

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