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Psychol Health Med. 2014;19(1):103-14. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2013.779729. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Living with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation: learning how to adapt to a virtual chronic illness.

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  • 1a Faculty of Education , University of Ottawa , Ottawa , Canada .


The objective of this study was to understand how women living with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutation adapt to this life transition and to identify the main adaptive tasks. A qualitative inquiry inspired by grounded theory revealed that participants cognitively appraised their test result in the same manner as women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Consequently, participants had to adapt to a condition that they perceived as a chronic illness. The following three main tasks were identified: Physical Task: Attempting to Limit the Impact of the Test Result, Psychological Task: Living with Uncertainty, and Social Task: Finding Effective Support. In conclusion, although these women live with the possibility of developing breast cancer, their experiences mirror those of individuals living with a chronic illness, and they must therefore adapt accordingly in a physical, psychological, and social manner.

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