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Psychological distress in women seeking genetic counseling for breast-ovarian cancer risk The contributions of personality and appraisal

The purpose of the present study was two-fold: (a) to characterize the psychological status of women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer who self-refer for genetic counseling and BRCA1 testing; and (b) to identify specific demographic, personality, and appraisal factors that contribute to cancer-specific distress and general distress in this group of women. Participants were 256 women ages 18 and older who had at least one first-degree relative (FDR) with breast and/or ovarian cancer. Participants were recruited through breast cancer clinics and obstetrics/gynecology departments at two medical centers by responding to program information described in a brochure. The results revealed moderate distress levels in this population. The results of a hierarchical regression of general distress indicated that 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 (R2 = .44, p = .0001). Women with higher levels of cancer-specific distress tended to be younger and non-White and had low perceptions of control over developing breast cancer (R2 = .15, p = .0002). These findings suggest that self-referred genetic counseling participants may be psychologically vulnerable and may benefit from interventions designed to decrease distress and the perceived absence of control over developing breast cancer.

Citation

Audrain, J., Schwartz, M. D., Lerman, C., Hughes, C., Peshkin, B. N., & Biesecker, B. (1997). Psychological distress in women seeking genetic counseling for breast-ovarian cancer risk: The contributions of personality and appraisal. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 19(4), 370-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02895156

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