Objective: A subset of women who are at elevated cancer risk due to family history exhibit evidence of cancer-specific distress. These stress responses may represent symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The present study assessed rates of PTSD related to personal or family cancer history and BRCA1/2 testing.
Methods: Participants were 84 women enrolled in a larger project focused on genetic testing decisions. Semistructured diagnostic interviews were used to identify instances of threshold and subthreshold PTSD.
Results: Results indicated that 16.7% of the women reported current threshold or subthreshold PTSD related to personal or family cancer history. An additional 26.2% reported past-only cancer-related threshold or subthreshold PTSD. Of the 65 women who received BRCA1/2 results and completed the test-related PTSD module, only 7.7% reported threshold or subthreshold PTSD related to the genetic testing process. However, when rates were examined based on carrier status, 25.0% of BRCA1/2 carriers reported test-related threshold or subthreshold PTSD compared with only 10.0% of variants and 2.3% of noncarriers.
Conclusions: Results from this study suggest that both personal and family cancer diagnoses can be significant stressors for a subset of high-risk women. Rates of threshold and subthreshold PTSD related to genetic testing appear to be less common, although carriers may be at higher risk for significant posttraumatic symptoms.