Cancer prevention and screening practices among women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer after genetic counseling in the community setting

Fam Cancer. 2009;8(4):277-87. doi: 10.1007/s10689-009-9242-z. Epub 2009 Apr 4.


The context is that there are limited data regarding the management of women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) after genetic counseling in the community setting. The objective of the study is to examine the cancer screening and prevention behaviors among women with diverse risk factors for HBOC, counseled through a non-academic genetic counseling service. This study was designed as a retrospective telephone survey. A community/private-hospital based cancer genetic counseling service was setting. The patients studied were women, at least 21 years of age, who had undergone cancer genetic counseling with: (1) a >or=10% predicted likelihood of carrying a BRCA1/2 mutation; (2) a documented BRCA1/2 mutation. A 121-item telephone survey was intervened. Main outcome measures are (1) reason for referral, (2) genetic testing/results, and (3) screening and prevention behaviors. Sixty-nine women participated (31% response rate). Forty-nine (71%) respondents had a history of breast cancer. Forty-three women (62%) reported undergoing BRCA1/2 testing, of these, seven (16%) had a deleterious mutation; 32 (74%) received negative results and four (9%) had "inconclusive" findings. Among the seven with documented mutations; five had a personal history of breast cancer; none had a history of ovarian cancer; all had undergone bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO), while five (71%) had undergone bilateral mastectomy. Among those 62 respondents without a documented mutation, pretest likelihood of a BRCA1/2 mutation (based on established models) was as follows: 10-29% likelihood in 38 (61%); 30-59% likelihood in 16 (26%); and >or=60% likelihood in eight (13%). Of these, 16 (26%) had undergone bilateral mastectomy for treatment and/or risk-reduction while 20 (32%) had undergone BSO for risk-reduction or for "other reasons". Almost all who had not undergone bilateral mastectomy were presenting for regular mammograms; fewer were undergoing regular breast MRI imaging. For those who had not undergone risk-reducing BSO; few were having CA-125 levels or transvaginal ultrasounds. Among those studied, the majority underwent genetic testing. A significant percentage elected to undergo risk-reducing mastectomy and BSO. Although prophylactic surgical decisions appeared to be largely influenced by BRCA mutation status, a number of women in the lower risk categories had undergone these procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood
  • Endosonography / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Mastectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Ovariectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use


  • CA-125 Antigen
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Tamoxifen