Testing participation in BRCA1/2-positive families: initiator role of index cases

Genet Test. 2003 Fall;7(3):225-33. doi: 10.1089/109065703322537241.


The objectives of this study were to: (1) describe diffusion of information by affected women in whom a mutation has been identified (index cases) to their families and testing participation among high-risk relatives; (2) assess information recall and understanding by index cases and their satisfaction with the testing process; and (3) determine the factors associated with higher/lower testing decision in the family. Thirty index cases completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing their personal and family characteristics and their satisfaction with their own genetic testing process and a telephone interview to evaluate their knowledge about the risk of a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer, the type and number of close relatives that they informed, and the difficulties that they encountered. Information about breast/ovarian cancer risk and test availability was generally well transmitted (75%), predominantly (88%) to first-degree relatives. In contrast, testing participation was low (15%) and essentially occurred among sisters and daughters. There was a general lack of knowledge despite a high level of satisfaction regarding the information given by the geneticist. Family support and the knowledge of index cases about the risk of transmission of BRCA1/2 mutations by women were found to be positively and significantly associated with the testing decision among first-degree relatives. Difficulties in informing relatives appeared to be related to poor understanding of the information by index cases, as well as fear, and avoidance among close relatives. A major challenge for genetic counseling is to ensure that consulting patients not only receive complete understanding but also understand this information and anticipate the impact of the test result before deciding to take the test.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics*
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Participation*


  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA2 Protein