Expectations and Psychological Issues Before Genetic Counseling: Analysis of Distress Determinant Factors

Background: Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC) are the most common hereditary cancer syndromes in which a genetic test is available. Potential risks associated with testing include psychological harm, emotional distress and insurance problems.

Methods: The aim of the present study is to investigate determinants of distress in a sample of Italian subjects undergoing genetic counseling. Demographic information and psychological distress were assessed by using a self-reported questionnaire and the "Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale" (HAD), before attending the first counseling session.

Results: Of the all subjects referred for the first time to our Center (January 2012-June 2013), a total of 227 were eligible (female/male = 174/53) for the survey, 134 (59%) were oncologic patients and of these, 116 received genetic test (36 for HNPCC and 80 for HBOC). The remaining 93 (41%) were healthy subjects referred for suspected familiar history and of this group, 65 subjects performed predictive test in a family with a known pathogenic mutation (53 for HBOC and 12 for HNPCC). Affected subjects had a significantly higher level of anxiety (p = 0.02) and HAD global score (p = 0.01) than healthy ones. There was no difference in HAD score between individuals testing for different syndromes (p = 0.3). In the affected subgroup, there was a significant linear correlation between the HAD anxiety score and how much subjects perceived their disease as hereditary (p = 0.01). Female and younger subjects had higher levels of anxiety (p = 0.05). Also healthy single subjects show more general distress (p = 0.02) than those with a partner.

Conclusions: Greater level of distress identified on females, single and younger subjects.

Keywords: Genetic counseling; Genetic test; HBOC; HNPCC; Psychological distress.

Hered Cancec Clin Pract 2020 Apr 29;18:10.doi: 10.1186/s13053-020-00142-1. eCollection 2020

Zelmira Ballatore 1, Raffaella Bracci 2, Elena Maccaroni 1, Lucia Svarca 3, Francesca Bianchi 1, Laura Belvederesi 1, Cristiana Bruciati 1, Silvia Pagliaretta 1, Alberto Murrone 1, Federica Bini 1, Mirco Pistelli 1, Giulia Ricci 1, Rossana Berardi