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Spiritual faith and genetic testing decisions among high-risk breast cancer probands.

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  • 1Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Despite widespread access to genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer susceptibility genes, little is known about rates or predictors of test use among individuals from newly ascertained high-risk families who have self-referred for genetic counseling/testing. The objective of this study was to examine rates of test use within this population. In addition, we sought to determine whether spiritual faith and psychological factors influenced testing decisions. Participants were 290 women with familial breast cancer. All were offered genetic counseling and testing for alterations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Baseline levels of spiritual faith, cancer-specific distress, perceived risk, and demographic factors were examined to identify independent predictors of whether participants received versus declined testing. The final logistic model revealed statistically significant main effects for spiritual faith [odds ratio (OR), 0.2; 95% confidence intervals (CIs), 0.1 and 0.5] and perceived ovarian cancer risk (OR, 2.4; 95% CIs, 1.3 and 4.7) and a statistically significant spiritual faith by perceived risk interaction effect. Among women who perceived themselves to be at low risk of developing breast cancer again, those with higher levels of spiritual faith were significantly less likely to be tested, compared with those with lower levels of faith (OR, 0.2; 95% CIs, 0.1 and 0.5). However, among women with high levels of perceived risk, rates of test use were high, regardless of levels of spiritual faith (OR, 1.2; 95% CIs, 0.4 and 3.0). These results highlight the role that spirituality may play in the decision-making process about genetic testing.

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