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Coping and support (2)
- Palliative care: Symptom relief during illness
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- Breast cancer chemoprevention: Medicines that reduce breast cancer risk
- Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
- Prophylactic oophorectomy: Preventing cancer by surgically removing your ovaries
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- Breast cancer staging
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Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
Variant or unknown test results
In some instances, testing identifies a gene alteration that hasn't been seen in prior families, and there isn't enough information about the alteration to know whether it causes an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. This is known as a variant of uncertain significance.
Learning that you have a genetic variant of unknown significance may lead to:
- Confusion and anxiety about your cancer risk
- Frustration over the lack of useful cancer risk information
- Difficulty making cancer screening, treatment and prevention decisions
Living with test results
Anyone would be anxious if they had the chance to find out whether their risk of a deadly disease is higher than average. In fact, you may decide that you'd rather not know, and just forgo testing altogether. That's certainly a valid choice.
It's also normal to experience sadness, anxiety or even anger if your test results are positive. You might be more likely to experience a more profoundly negative reaction if you didn't expect your results to be positive — for instance if your family history isn't that significant. However, research shows that, in the long run, most people cope well with the knowledge of an increased cancer risk and don't experience significant distress over the test results. For many, simply knowing their risk status eases psychological and emotional distress. They can be proactive and establish a plan to deal with their increased risk.Previous page
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- Cohn WF, et al. "Are you at risk for hereditary breast cancer?": Development of a personal risk assessment tool for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2008;17:64.
- Pruthi S, et al. Identification and management of women with BRCA mutations or hereditary predisposition for breast and ovarian cancer. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:1111.
- Isaacs C, et al. Genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 1, 2010.
- Peshkin BN, et al. Patient information: Genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 1, 2010.
- H.R.493: Genetic information nondiscrimination act of 2008. The Library of Congress. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR00493:@@@L&summ2=m&. Accessed Dec. 1, 2010.
- Probability of breast cancer in American women. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/probability-breast-cancer. Accessed Dec. 1, 2010.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer risk and genetic testing. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA. Accessed Dec. 1, 2010.
- Pasacreta JV. Psychosocial issues associated with genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk: An integrative review. Cancer Investigation. 2003;21:588.