Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Karen A Brooks

Abstract

Purpose: Genetic testing is intended to give patients a clearer understanding of their individual cancer risk. Testing negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations does not completely eliminate the heritable component of cancer, nor does it eliminate the risk to relatives of affected women. This increased risk may be difficult for patients to comprehend and explain to family members. By administering pre-test and post-test surveys to women with breast cancer diagnoses who have received negative BRCA results, our intention was to 1) gain a better understanding of their risk perception; 2) reveal if and how risk perception changes upon receiving negative results; and 3) explore how risk to family members is perceived by the individual. We intended to identify barriers to patient understanding and enhance future communication of risk information to patients. Method: Patients (N=20) who were affected with breast cancer, had a family history of breast cancer, and had no mutation detected through BRCA1/2 mutation analysis were given surveys before and after receiving their genetic test results. Results: Overall, respondents did not seem to be overly reassured by their negative genetic test results. We predicted that respondents would associate a negative result with lower risks (both to themselves and family members) after receiving their results; however, the opposite seemed to be true. The respondents' seemed to have a heightened perception of risk when taking the post-survey. Conclusions: Although there were several limitations to this study, women affected with breast cancer do not appear to be overly reassured by negative BRCA1 or BRCA2 test results, nor do they seem to underestimate risks to their relatives.

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