The impact of information given to patients’ families: Breast cancer risk notification

Estrella Durá Ferrandis, Yolanda Andreu, Maria José Galdón


A family history of breast cancer is a clear risk for developing the disease. Therefore, when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer all her female first degree relatives become population at risk. This involve a number of important aspects to be taken into account by psychooncology professionals. (a) First, in addition to the stress associated with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in a close relative, first degree relatives of breast cancer patients have the added stress of learning that they are at risk of this disease. (b) Second, these women become the main target of secondary breast cancer prevention strategies. However, various reports show that a considerable percentage of these women do not follow the recommended screening methods. For this reason, it is necessary to study the possible contribution of psychosocial factors, specially health beliefs, in the practice of preventive behavior aimed at preventing breast cancer in this population, and to design strategies to promote preventive practices. (c) Most of the research on health beliefs among women at risk for breat cancer has focused on risk perception.

This research as found that some women with a family history of breast cancer have significantly overestimated their risk, while other shave underestimated their risk. The need to provide risk counselling schemes for these women is therefore proposed, in order to estimate and advise them of their real risk. (d) Finally, these women may request genetic testing to determine whether they carry genetic mutations (BRCA1, BRCA2, or others) that cause some types of breast cancer. However, it must be remembered that, although many first degree relatives will have heard of and seek «the cancer gene test», currently testing is appropiate and available only for rare individuals. All these issues are reviewed in the present paper.


Breast cancer; psychology; risk counselling; genetic counselling



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