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Prev Med. 2000 Jul;31(1):75-80.

Prophylactic surgery decisions and surveillance practices one year following BRCA1/2 testing.

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



Although genetic testing for breast cancer risk is clinically available, its impact on health-related behaviors is unknown. This study examined prophylactic surgery and surveillance behavior during the year following BRCA1/2 gene testing.


Participants were female members (n = 216) of hereditary breast-ovarian cancer families (84 mutation carriers, 83 noncarriers and 49 test decliners). In this prospective observational study, utilization of prophylactic surgery and surveillance behavior were assessed 1-year following BRCA1/2 testing.


Only 3% of the unaffected carriers obtained prophylactic mastectomy during the 1-year follow-up period. Among the remaining females, carriers had significantly higher rates of mammography (68%) than noncarriers (44%); (OR = 7.1; C.I. = 1.36-37.1; P = 0.02). However, the adherence rate in carriers was unchanged from baseline, suggesting that this difference is attributable to a reduction in screening among noncarriers. Women ages 25-39 years were significantly less likely to obtain mammograms than those aged 40 years and older. Cancer-related distress had a positive but nonsignificant (P < 0.07) association with adherence in bivariate but not multivariate analysis. With regard to ovarian risk, only 13% of carriers obtained prophylactic oophorectomy; of the remaining female carriers, only 21% reported a CA125 and 15% reported a transvaginal ultrasound.


The vast majority of BRCA1/2 carriers may not opt for prophylactic surgery, and many do not adhere to surveillance recommendations. Greater attention to risk communication and medical decision-making is warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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