Desire for Children and Distress in Women with Hereditary Cancer Syndromes

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 4;19(21):14517. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192114517.


The diagnosis of a hereditary cancer syndrome can be psychologically stressful and influence family planning. This study aimed to gain insights into the relationship between the desire for children and the distress of female carriers. Women (N = 255) with different hereditary cancer syndromes were assessed from November 2019 to July 2021 at genetic counseling centers, the centers of the German HBOC-Consortium and the centers of the German HNPCC-Consortium regarding their distress levels with the NCCN Distress Thermometer (DT). The desire for children was measured by self-developed questions. Levels of distress and desire for children were evaluated descriptively. Factors influencing the desire for children and distress were calculated using binary logistic regression: 56% (n = 51) of 18- to 39-year-old participants reported a desire to have children; 70.6% of the carriers with a desire for children indicated a need for advice from their physicians regarding family planning. The diagnosis led 61.5% to postpone the timing of family planning, and the majority (68.8%) opted for an earlier birth. Carriers had higher levels of distress. Younger carriers (p = 0.037) and those living in poorer economic circumstances (p = 0.011) were more distressed. The diagnosis of hereditary cancer syndrome affects family planning. The results emphasize the importance of physicians addressing family planning in their counseling sessions.

Keywords: desire to have children; distress; hereditary cancer syndrome; psycho-oncology; tumor disposition syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary* / genetics
  • Sex Education
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was part of the KlinStrucMed Graduation Program, funded by the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung. The funding source had no influence on the design or execution of the study, data analysis or interpretation.