Psychosocial Issues in Hereditary Colon Cancer Syndromes: Lynch Syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis
Findings from some studies suggested that there may be subgroups of individuals at higher risk of psychological distress following disclosure of test results, including those who present with relatively higher scores on measures of general or cancer-specific distress before undergoing testing.[49,50,51,52,53,56] A study of CRC patients who had donated blood for LS testing found that higher levels of depressive symptoms and/or anxiety were found among women, younger persons, nonwhites, and those with less formal education and fewer and less satisfactory sources of social support. A subgroup of individuals who showed higher levels of psychological distress and lower quality of life and social support were identified from the same population; in addition, this subgroup was more likely to worry about finding out that they were LS mutation carriers and being able to cope with learning their test results. In a follow-up report that evaluated psychological outcomes following disclosure of test results among both CRC patients and relatives at risk of having a LS mutation, a subgroup with the same psychosocial characteristics experienced higher levels of general distress and distress specific to the experience of having genetic testing within the year after disclosure, regardless of mutation status. Nonwhites and those with lower education had higher levels of depression and anxiety scores at all times compared with whites and those with higher education, respectively. Other studies have also found that a prior history of major or minor depression, higher pretest levels of cancer-specific distress, having a greater number of cancer-affected first-degree relatives, greater grief reactions, and greater emotional illness-related representations predicted higher levels of distress from 1 to 6 months after disclosure of test results.[53,56] While further research is needed in this area, case studies indicate that it is important to identify persons who may be at risk for experiencing psychiatric distress and to provide psychological support and follow-up throughout the genetic counseling and genetic testing process.
Studies also have examined the effect of LS genetic counseling and testing on cancer risk comprehension. One study reported that nearly all mutation carriers and noncarriers could accurately recall the test result 1 year after disclosure. More noncarriers than carriers correctly identified their risk of developing CRC at both 1 month and 1 year following result disclosure. Mutation carriers who incorrectly identified their CRC risk were more likely to have had lower levels of pretest subjective risk perception compared with those who correctly identified their level of risk. Another study reported that accuracy of estimating colorectal and endometrial cancer risk improved following disclosure of mutation status in both carriers and noncarriers.
Studies evaluating psychological outcomes following genetic testing for FAP suggest that some individuals, particularly mutation carriers, may be at risk for experiencing increased distress. In a cross-sectional study of adults who had previously undergone APC genetic testing, those who were mutation carriers exhibited higher levels of state anxiety than noncarriers and were more likely to exhibit clinically significant anxiety levels. Lower optimism and lower self-esteem were associated with higher anxiety in this study, and FAP-related distress, perceived seriousness of FAP, and belief in the accuracy of genetic testing were associated with more state anxiety among carriers. However, in an earlier study that compared adults who had undergone genetic testing for FAP, Huntington disease, and hereditary breast/ovarian cancer syndrome, FAP-specific distress was somewhat elevated within 1 week after disclosure of either positive or negative test results and was lower overall compared with the other syndromes.