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Br J Cancer. 2000 Apr;82(7):1249-53.

Attitude towards prophylactic surgery and effects of genetic counselling in families with BRCA mutations. Austrian Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Group.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, General Hospital, University of Vienna, Austria.


The intent of this study was to evaluate the effect that an awareness of being a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carrier has on the attitude towards prophylactic surgery and on developing depression symptoms. Thirty-five families were selected on the basis of previously detected BRCA1 or 2 mutations and 90 family members were given the appropriate questionnaires. Prophylactic mastectomy (PM) was considered by 21% of the Austrian mutation carriers (29% affected and 8% non-affected carriers). The majority of affected and non-affected carriers expected PM to impair the quality of their life. Fifty per cent would undergo prophylactic oophorectomy (53% affected and 46% non-affected carriers). The self-rating depression scale indicated that following mutation result disclosure the depression scores of carriers decreased (40 baseline vs 38 after result disclosure, P = 0.3), whereas, for non-carriers, scores increased (36 baseline vs 40 after result disclosure, P = 0.05). We conclude that information about carrier status is not associated with increased depression symptoms in mutation carriers. In non-carriers, depression scores increased slightly, probably reflecting survivor guilt. The option of having PM was associated with a negative impact on the quality of life and was declined by the majority of Austrian mutation carriers.

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