Interest in genetic testing among first-degree relatives of breast cancer patients

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Abstract

The recent cloning of a breast-ovarian cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA1), and determination of the locus of a related gene (BRCA2), offers potential for clinical genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility. This study examined interest in and expectations about an impending genetic test among first-degree relatives (FDRs) of breast cancer patients. One hundred five females completed two structured telephone interviews to assess demographics, breast cancer risk factors, psychological factors, and attitudes about genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility. Overall, 91% of FDRs said that they would want to be tested, 4% said they would not, and 5% were uncertain. The most commonly cited reasons for wanting genetic testing were to learn about one's children's risk, to increase use of cancer screening tests, and to take better care of oneself. Women with less formal education were motivated by childbearing decisions and future planning to a greater degree than were women with education beyond high school. Most women anticipated a negative psychological impact of positive test results, involving increased anxiety (83%), depression (80%), and impaired quality of life (46%). In addition, 72% of women indicated that they would still worry if they tested negative. In multivariate regression analysis, level of baseline depression was the strongest predictor of an anticipated negative impact of genetic testing (Beta =.15; P,.0001). These results suggest that the demand for genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility may be great, even among women who are not likely to have predisposing mutations. Prior to widespread availability of such testing, it will be critical to develop informed consent protocols to educate individuals about the benefits and limitations of predictive testing for this multifactorial disease. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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