Communicating with Daughters About Familial Risk of Breast Cancer: Individual, Family, and Provider Influences on Women's Knowledge of Cancer Risk

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018 May;27(5):630-639. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6528. Epub 2018 Jan 29.


Introduction: Women facing complex and uncertain situations such as cancer in their families may seek information from a variety of sources to gain knowledge about cancer risk and reduce uncertainty. We describe and assess the relative importance of information sources about familial breast cancer at the individual, family, and healthcare provider levels influencing women's reporting they had enough information to speak with daughters about breast cancer. This outcome we refer to as being informed about breast cancer.

Materials and methods: Sister Study participants, a cohort of women with a family history of breast cancer, were surveyed on family cancer history, family communication, social support, and interactions with healthcare providers (n = 11,766). Adjusted percentages and 95% confidence intervals for being informed about breast cancer versus not being informed were computed for individual-, family-, and provider-level characteristics in three steps using multivariate logistic regression models.

Results: We found 65% of women reported being informed about breast cancer while 35% did not. Having a trusted person with whom to discuss cancer concerns, having a lower versus higher perceived risk of breast cancer, having undergone genetic counseling, and being satisfied with physician discussions about breast cancer in their families were predictors of being informed about breast cancer.

Conclusions: Although acquiring objective risk information, such as through genetic counseling, may contribute to a basic level of understanding, communication with providers and within other trusted relationships appears to be an essential component in women's reporting they had all the information they need to talk with their daughters about breast cancer.

Keywords: breast cancer; family communication; genetic counseling; information management; oncology; risk communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Family*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Supplementary concepts

  • Breast Cancer, Familial