NEW ORLEANS--Women seeking BRCA1 testing appear, as a group, to be more distressed and psychologically vulnerable than those who do not wish to be tested, according to two studies from Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University, reported at the American Society of Preventive Oncology annual meeting. The women in the studies were at high risk because of a close family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Janet Audrain, PhD, evaluated 256 women who self-referred for genetic testing. She found mild to moderate distress levels in the group as a whole.
Women with higher levels of general distress were less likely to be married, less optimistic, and had heightened breast cancer risk perceptions, accompanied by feelings of low perceptions of control over the development of breast cancer, Dr. Audrain reported at a poster session.
Women with higher levels of cancer-specific distress tended to be younger, nonwhite, and had low perceptions of control over developing breast cancer.
Marc Schwartz, PhD, reported that the presence of stress symptoms may motivate individuals to seek BRCA1 testing, and that women with such symptoms may be more vulnerable to adverse psychological effects.
Dr. Schwartz' study included 149 participants who were offered genetic counseling and BRCA1 test results. Overall, 58% of the participants requested the test results and 42% declined. Women who had the most baseline stress symptoms were the most likely to request the genetic test.
Women with the most baseline stress also tended to be the most depressed one month after receiving a positive test result. Baseline levels of global distress or depressive symptoms did not correlate with effect of the test results, Dr. Schwartz reported.
Counseling May Be Warranted
"These results suggest that the presence of stress symptoms may motivate individuals to seek BRCA1 testing, and that individuals with such symptoms may be more vulnerable to adverse psychological effects and may warrant counseling," he said.