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