Impact of BRCA Status on Reproductive Decision-Making and Self-Concept: A Mixed-Methods Study Informing the Development of Tailored Interventions

Cancers (Basel). 2022 Mar 15;14(6):1494. doi: 10.3390/cancers14061494.


This mixed-methods study sought to deepen our understanding of self-concept and experiences in balancing cancer risk/reproductive decisions after learning of BRCA+ status. First, a quantitative survey of BRCA+ women (n = 505) examined the childbearing status, risk-reducing surgery, and self-concept. At the time of testing, 307/505 (60.8%) women were of reproductive age (<40 years-old), 340/505 (67.3%) had children, and 317/505 (62.8%) had undergone risk-reducing surgery. A younger age at the time of the testing was significantly associated with the decision to have children after learning BRCA+ status or undergoing risk-reducing surgery (p < 0.001). Compared to older women, BRCA+ women of reproductive age, exhibited a more negative self-concept with significantly higher vulnerability ratings (p < 0.01). Women with a cancer diagnosis exhibited a more negative mastery ratings and worse vulnerability ratings (p < 0.01) than women without a cancer history. Compared to childless counterparts, significantly higher vulnerability ratings were observed among BRCA+ women who had children before learning their BRCA status and/or undergoing risk-reducing surgery (p < 0.001). Subsequently, a subset of women (n = 40) provided in-depth interviews to explore their experiences in decision-making. The interviews provided insights into the effects of BRCA status on decisions regarding relationships, childbearing, cancer risk management, and communicating BRCA risk to children. Integrating quantitative and qualitative findings identifies targets for tailored interventions to enhance precision health for BRCA+ women of reproductive age.

Keywords: BRCA mutation; precision health; reproductive decision-making; risk-reducing surgery; self-concept.