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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Mar;19(3):648-54. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-0548. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

Randomized controlled trial of a psychosocial telephone counseling intervention in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.

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  • 1Department of Oncology and The Fisher Centerfor Familial Cancer Research, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, 3300 Whitehaven Street, Northwest, Suite 4100, Washington, DC 20007, USA. kdg9@georgetown.edu



Responses following BRCA1/2 genetic testing are relevant for the comprehension of risk status and may play a role in risk management decision making. The objective of this study was to evaluate a psychosocial telephone counseling (PTC) intervention delivered to BRCA1/2 mutation carriers following standard genetic counseling (SGC). We examined the effect of the intervention on distress and the concerns related to genetic testing.


This prospective randomized clinical trial included 90 BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. We measured anxiety, depression, and genetic testing distress outcomes at intervention baseline and 6 and 12 months following disclosure. We evaluated the effects of SGC versus SGC plus PTC on psychological outcomes using intention-to-treat analyses through generalized estimating equations.


At 6 months, PTC reduced depressive symptoms (Z = -2.25, P = 0.02) and genetic testing distress (Z = 2.18, P = 0.02) compared with SGC. Furthermore, women in the intervention condition reported less clinically significant anxiety at 6 months (chi(2)(1) = 4.11, P = 0.04) than women who received SGC. We found no differences in outcomes between the intervention groups at the 12-month follow-up.


As an adjunct to SGC, PTC delivered following disclosure of positive BRCA1/2 test results seems to offer modest short-term benefits for distress and anxiety. These results build upon a growing literature of psychosocial interventions for BRCA1/2 carriers and, given the potential impact of affect on risk management decision making, suggest that some carriers may derive benefits from adjuncts to traditional genetic counseling.

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