Psychosocial and Behavioral Impact of Genetic Counseling and Testing

Breast Dis. 2006-2007;27:97-108. doi: 10.3233/bd-2007-27106.


Over a decade has passed since the clinical availability of BRCA1/2 mutation testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC). The purpose of this article is to review key areas of psychosocial and behavioral research related to genetic counseling and testing for BRCA1/2 mutations. Special attention will be given to understudied issues within each of these key areas. Where appropriate, the article will also highlight the clinical and research experiences of the authors. The first area that will be reviewed is the impact of genetic testing on psychological well-being. This will be followed by a brief discussion of a practical assessment strategy for psychosocial distress in clinical settings. Next, published data on the uptake of risk management options based on genetic testing results as well as the psychosocial impact of these behaviors will be reviewed. Thirdly, research focused on understanding the decision making at various points in the genetic counseling and testing process will also be examined. Finally, the available research on genetic counseling and testing in minority communities will be presented. By recognizing and addressing the psychosocial and behavioral issues faced by patients undergoing BRCA1/2 genetic counseling and testing, researchers and providers have the potential to maximize opportunities for prevention, early detection, and healthy coping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Counseling / psychology*
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Risk Management
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*