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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • ovarian caner;
  • oncology;
  • psychology;
  • genetic counselling;
  • risk perception

Abstract

Objective: Unclassified variants (UVs, variants of uncertain clinical significance) are found in 13% of all BRCA1/2 mutation analyses. Little is known about the counsellees' recall and interpretation of a UV, and its psychosocial/medical impact.

Method: Retrospective semi-structured interviews with open questions and five-point Likert scales were carried out in 24 counsellees who received a UV result 3 years before (sd=1.9).

Results: Sixty-seven percent (16/24) recalled the UV result as a non-informative DNA result; 29% recalled a pathogenic result. However, 79% of all counsellees interpreted the UV result as a genetic predisposition for cancer. Variations in recall and interpretation were unexplained by demographics, cancer history of themselves and relatives, and communication aspects of UV disclosure. Sixty-seven percent perceived genetic counselling as completed, whereas 71% expected to receive new DNA information. Although most counsellees reported that UV disclosure had changed their lives in general little, one in three counsellees reported large changes in specific life domains, especially in surveillance behavior and medical decisions. Ten out of 19 participants who interpreted the UV as pathogenic had undergone preventive surgery against none of the 5 counsellees who interpreted the UV as non-informative.

Conclusion: Counsellors and researchers need to address discrepancies between the counsellees' factual recall and their subjective interpretation of non-informative BRCA1/2-test results. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.