Decisions and outcomes of genetic testing for inherited breast cancer risk


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Abstract

Since the discovery of breast cancer susceptibility genes and the availability of genetic testing, a substantial amount of research has been conducted to evaluate rates of genetic test acceptance and to understand the psychological and behavioral impact of BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) genetic test results. This article explores findings related to genetic test acceptance for inherited breast cancer risk and the impact of genetic test results on psychological functioning, cancer prevention and control behaviors, and family communication about genetic testing. Overall, rates of genetic test acceptance were lower than anticipated based on interest in genetic testing reported in early research. While there is limited evidence that genetic testing generates adverse psychological effects, receiving positive BRCA1/2 test results may cause emotional reactions and concerns that are specific to such results. Although early reports suggested that receiving positive BRCA1/2 test results may have a limited impact on cancer screening or prevention behaviors, recent studies have shown that genetic testing for inherited breast cancer risk may increase screening behaviors among mutation carriers. However, utilization of some screening tests remains low among mutation carriers. Additional studies are needed to identify subgroups of participants in genetic testing who may be vulnerable to experiencing testing-specific concerns, and to evaluate the effects of interventions designed to promote behavioral change and address other concerns that may be generated by receiving positive BRCA1/2 test results.

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