Introduction: Carriers of a hereditary mutation in BRCA are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The first person from a family known to carry the mutation, the index person, has to share genetic information with relatives. This study is aimed at determining the number of relatives tested for a BRCA mutation, and the exploration of facilitating and debilitating factors in the transmission of genetic information from index patient to relatives.
Methods: The study includes 50 female index patients, with a germline mutation in either BRCA1 or BRCA2.
Results: The percentage of first- and second-degree relatives tested for the BRCA-mutation was 36%. Uptake levels for predictive BRCA-mutation testing could not be explained by demographic or counseling characteristics, nor by cancer-related history. In 14 families, fewer than 20% of first- and second-degree relatives were tested. These families were compared with the other families. In retrospect, the index patients of families with few BRCA-mutation tests more often asked for support in the communication with family members (62% vs. 27%). A psychosocial worker had been absent more often during counseling (39% vs. 9%). Emotional factors debilitating the information transmission were only reported by index patients from families with few BRCA-mutation tests (18% vs. 0%), who also informed their parents less often (21% vs. 67%) and did so less often personally (38% vs. 71%).
Conclusion: Uptake of predictive BRCA-mutation testing by first- and second-degree relatives is low. Emotional and behavioral factors of index patients are related to this uptake.