Attitudes toward prophylactic oophorectomy and screening utilization in women at increased risk of developing hereditary breast/ovarian cancer

Gynecol Oncol. 1999 Oct;75(1):122-9. doi: 10.1006/gyno.1999.5544.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate ovarian cancer screening uptake and attitudes toward prophylactic oophorectomy in women at risk of developing hereditary breast/ovarian cancer.

Study methods: Ninety-five unaffected women, who approached 1 of 14 familial cancer clinics for advice about their breast/ovarian cancer risk and surveillance and prophylactic options, were assessed in a cross-sectional design when they attended the clinic.

Results: Among high-risk women ages 30 and over who had not had a prophylactic oophorectomy, 48% reported ever having had an ovarian ultrasound, and among women ages 50 and over 23% had had a serum CA 125 test. Twenty-three percent of women would consider, and 27% would not consider, a prophylactic oophorectomy should the genetic test indicate a germline mutation associated with hereditary breast/ovarian cancer, while 38% were unsure. Twelve percent had already undergone a prophylactic oophorectomy. Interest in prophylactic oophorectomy was associated with increased breast/ovarian cancer anxiety (chi(2) = 5.14, P = 0.023), but not objective cancer risk (chi(2) = 0.40, P = 0.53).

Conclusion: Findings demonstrate that breast/ovarian cancer anxiety, rather than objective risk, is the major factor which determines women's attitude to prophylactic oophorectomy. Women are likely to benefit from interventions aimed at reducing breast/ovarian cancer anxiety. Research on the impact of prophylactic oophorectomy would be helpful in the development of educational strategies and decision aids to assist women who are trying to make a decision under conditions of uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology
  • Ovariectomy*
  • Risk Factors