Psychosocial aspects of cancer genetics: women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer

Semin Surg Oncol. 2000 Jun;18(4):333-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-2388(200006)18:4<333::aid-ssu8>;2-4.


In the past five years the advent of cancer genetic testing has created concern about the negative psychosocial sequelae of genetic counseling and testing. Research indicates that the women most likely to seek genetic testing are anxious about carrying a gene mutation and developing breast cancer. Women who are at high risk have poor knowledge and the expectation of being a gene-mutation carrier. High levels of distress have been shown to interfere with decision-making about genetic testing. Further, individuals who decline genetic testing may be at increased risk for depressive symptoms even more than those who are found to be gene-mutation carriers. There is great concern that inappropriate candidates will seek genetic testing. Improved education and access to genetic counseling are essential to help women make appropriate decisions about genetic testing. Strategies for the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer are explored, and methods to reduce the adverse psychosocial effects of decision-making about genetic testing and preventive treatment strategies are suggested.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological*