The evolution of worry after breast cancer risk assessment: 6-year follow-up of the TRACE study cohort



Objectives: There is little evidence regarding the long-term psychological implications of breast cancer risk assessment for women at moderate genetic risk. A follow-up study of a trial cohort was conducted to evaluate psychological outcomes and their predictors at 6-year follow-up. A further aim was to examine threshold scores for high cancer worry.

Methods: Questionnaires were sent to 384 women assessed as moderate risk during a UK trial of genetic assessment (TRACE). Measures included cancer worry, perceived risk, health behaviours, general anxiety, psychological morbidity, optimism, and background variables assessed during TRACE and at 6-year follow-up.

Results: Reductions from baseline cancer worry and breast self-examination (BrSE) frequency were maintained 6 years after risk assessment, with relatively consistent levels over short- and long-term follow-up. Provision of risk information led to short-term reductions in perceived risk. During the 6-year period, 43% of women reported having made lifestyle changes and 27% had requested a mammogram. Baseline and post-risk cancer worry were the only significant predictors of long-term cancer worry. Greater worry at baseline predicted more frequent BrSE and higher perceived risk, but not lifestyle change or mammogram requests, at 6 years. Eighteen percent of women reported cancer worry above a threshold of 12.5 at long-term follow-up, compared with 30% at baseline.

Conclusions: Overall reductions in cancer worry following moderate risk assessment were maintained in the long term. However, women at risk of sustained high cancer worry should be identified at an early stage in the risk assessment process for more intensive psycho-educational intervention. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.