Impact of BRCA1 testing on women with cancer: a pilot study

Genet Test. 2000;4(3):265-72. doi: 10.1089/10906570050501489.


We sought to understand better the impact of genetic testing and counseling in a group of women who had early breast cancer (age <50) or ovarian cancer and a family history of cancer. Thirty-five women underwent genetic counseling and genetic testing for BRCA1/2 at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Hereditary Cancer Clinic. Psychological assessment (IES and Hopkins Symptom Checklist) was made before counseling, and 1 month after genetic test results were reported to women. A statistically significant decrease in anxiety was evidenced 1 month after results were given (p = 0.024). Decreased intrusive thoughts related to genetic testing were seen only for those testing negative (p = 0.0003). Women diagnosed with cancer less than 1 year prior to genetic testing experienced the greatest cancer-specific distress (p = 0.01) and distress related to genetic testing (p = not significant). Satisfaction with the counseling and testing process was high. In conclusion, genetic testing and counseling can occur with little anxiety and stress. However, women less than 1 year from a cancer diagnosis will experience the greatest distress associated with genetic testing and counseling. Women who are considering genetic testing and counseling close to a diagnosis of cancer may require greater psychological support.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies