Decision-making about genetic testing among women at familial risk for breast cancer

Paul B. Jacobsen, Heiddis B. Valdimarsdottir, Karen L. Brown, Kenneth Offit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Objective: Recent identification of the breast-ovarian cancer susceptibility gone BRCA1 and the breast cancer susceptibility gone BRCA2 have raised the possibility of clinical genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility. This study examined decision-making about future susceptibility testing among women at familial risk for breast cancer. Based on the transtheoretical model, it was hypothesized that readiness to undergo testing would be related to the ratio between the perceived advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of learning one's susceptibility status. Methods: Seventy-four women with one or more first-degree relatives with breast cancer were recruited before a routine mammogram. Participants completed measures assessing readiness to undergo testing, perceived pros and cons of testing, and perceived breast cancer risk. Family history data was used to calculate empiric genetic risk of developing breast cancer. Results: Forty-six per cent of participants planned to seek genetic testing as soon as possible, 35% planned to seek testing in the future, and 19% did not plan to seek testing. As expected, greater readiness to undergo testing was associated with a positive decisional balance (pros > cons). Older age and greater perceived risk (but not empiric risk) also were associated with greater readiness. Conclusion: The readiness of many women to seek breast cancer susceptibility testing can be attributed, in large part, to their perceptions that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Examination of these perceptions suggests that notification of carrier status may have significant effects on women's psychological well-being and breast cancer surveillance and prevention behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-466
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Decision-making
  • Genetic testing
  • Transtheoretical model


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