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Genet Med. 2008 Oct;10(10):745-50. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e318185213e.

Putting it all behind: long-term psychological impact of an inconclusive DNA test result for breast cancer.

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Department of Medical Psychology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands. dijk@lumc



An inconclusive DNA-result for breast cancer may leave women with uncertainty that cannot be relieved. We assessed the influence of beliefs women held about their inconclusive DNA-result on psychological well-being and whether women had been able to put the period of DNA testing behind them.


In total, 215 women completed a baseline and a follow-up questionnaire 2.5 till 7 years after DNA test disclosure. Within the group of 147 women who received an inconclusive result (either a personal result or the result of an affected family member) multiple regression analyses were applied to investigate the relevance of women's personal beliefs.


Personal beliefs and ambivalence about an inconclusive DNA-result were associated with cancer-related worry and distress (P < 0.05). Moreover, these beliefs seemed to be an especially strong predictor of whether women had been able to leave the period of DNA testing behind them, even after controlling for all measures of psychological distress (P < 0.001).


Psychological distress measures may provide an important but incomplete picture of how women make sense of an inconclusive DNA-result. These findings underscore the importance of discussing counselees' beliefs and expectations openly to enhance well-being and adaptation on the long term.

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