Open Access Article

Cancer Surveillance Behaviors in Women Presenting for Clinical BRCA Genetic Susceptibility Testing

Lois J. Loescher

Kyung Hee Lim

Ofri Leitner

Jessica Ray

Joyce D'Souza

Cary M. Armstrong

health behaviors, genetics
ONF 2009, 36(2), E57-E67. DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E57-E67

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate cancer surveillance behaviors of women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) who presented for clinical BRCA cancer susceptibility testing, specifically to describe cancer surveillance behaviors and reasons for not engaging in behaviors, compare surveillance behaviors with existing surveillance guidelines, and evaluate associations of cancer surveillance behaviors with BRCA results.

Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive.

Setting: Genetic risk-assessment programs in a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a community cancer center, both in the southwestern region of the United States.

Sample: Purposive sample of 107 at-risk women.

Methods: Self-report survey.

Main Research Variables: Breast and ovarian cancer surveillance behaviors and BRCA test results.

Findings: Ninety percent of participants had a personal history of breast cancer; 84% had a negative BRCA result. About 60% of participants engaged in at least the minimum recommended breast cancer surveillance behaviors, but 70% had suboptimal ovarian cancer surveillance behaviors. Lack of physician recommendation was the most frequently reported reason for not having surveillance procedures. BRCA results were not associated with the breast cancer surveillance categories and the ovarian cancer surveillance recommendations.

Conclusions: Although most participants were not carriers of a mutation, the presence of other risk factors for breast and ovarian cancer dictates continued cancer surveillance. At-risk women may not be informed adequately about cancer surveillance.

Implications for Nursing: Healthcare providers should be aware of changing breast and ovarian cancer surveillance recommendations and counsel their at-risk patients accordingly.

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