A Group Therapy Approach to Facilitate Integration of Risk Information for Women at Risk for Breast Cancer

Can J Psychiatry. 1998 May;43(4):375-80. doi: 10.1177/070674379804300405.


Objective: To describe and illustrate elements of a group counselling approach designed to enhance the communication of risk information on breast cancer (BC) to women with a family history of this disease. Breast cancer is a leading cause of female cancer death. The most important risk factor for BC is a positive family history in at least 1 first-degree relative, and approximately one-third of women with BC have a family history of the disease. Recent evidence suggests that there is a significant psychological impact associated with having a family history of BC, and this may influence the psychological adjustment and response to being counselled for personal risk. New counselling approaches are required.

Method: This paper describes a group therapy approach that incorporates principles of supportive-expressive therapy designed to address the emotional impact of being at risk for BC and to promote accuracy of perceived risk. The key elements of the intervention are described along with clinical illustrations from groups that are part of an ongoing study to develop and standardize the group therapy.

Conclusion: Qualitative data from the groups suggest that this model of therapy is both feasible and effective.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role*
  • Treatment Outcome