Genetic counseling in hereditary breast/ovarian cancer in Israel: Psychosocial impact and retention of genetic information

Michal DiCastro, Moshe Frydman, Irit Friedman, Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov, Moshe Z. Papa, Boleslaw Goldman, Eitan Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic counseling for individuals at high risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer (oncogenetic counseling) involves evaluation of cancer risk, psychological assessment, and genetic testing for germline mutations in BRCA1/BRCA2 genes. The long-term psychosocial impact of oncogenetic counseling on consultees and the retention of oncogenetic information are uncertain. We retrospectively interviewed 155 women who underwent oncogenetic counseling in a single medical center in Israel in 1996 (N = 50) and 1998 (N = 105). There were 29 (18.7%) BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers and 126 non-carriers; 58 (37.4%) had a past or present history of cancer, and 97 (62.6%) were first-degree relatives within breast/ovarian cancer families. A questionnaire evaluating self-reported distress and anxiety symptoms before and after counseling, as well as the retention of relevant information (e.g., individual and offspring cancer risk, early detection schemes), one and three years after the initial consultation was administered. Overall, oncogenetic counseling had a minimal effect on anxiety-related symptoms. Mutation carriers reported anxiety-associated symptoms, such as sleeplessness and "bad mood", more frequently than non-carriers following oncogenetic counseling. As expected, 61.8% of carriers and only 30% of non-carriers accurately remembered the personal and offspring cancer risk and preventive and early detection schemes. We conclude that although there seemed to be slight worsening of anxiety-related symptoms following oncogenetic counseling in BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers, these symptoms were minimal and did not affect everyday life activities. In addition, there is an ongoing need to emphasize oncogenetic information to high-risk individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-151
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Aug 2002


  • BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations
  • Cancer risk
  • Oncogenetic counseling
  • Psychosocial effects


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