Women's decision making about risk-reducing strategies in the context of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer: a systematic review

J Genet Couns. 2009 Dec;18(6):578-97. doi: 10.1007/s10897-009-9245-9. Epub 2009 Oct 3.


Women who have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have up to an 87% lifetime risk of breast cancer and up to a 40% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer. Cancer prevention and early detection strategies are often considered by these women to address this heightened risk. Risk-reducing strategies include risk-reducing mastectomy and oophorectomy, breast and ovarian cancer screening, and chemoprevention. This systematic literature review summarizes the factors and contexts that influence decision making related to cancer risk-reducing strategies among women at high-risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. In the 43 published research articles reviewed, three main types of factors are identified that influence high-risk women's decisions about risk-reducing strategies: a) medical and physical factors, b) psychological factors and c) social context factors. How these factors operate in women's lives over time remains unknown, and would best be elucidated through prospective, longitudinal research, as well as qualitative research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery
  • Ovariectomy
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Women's Health*