BRCA1 in the family: A case description of the psychological implications

AC DudokdeWit*, A Tibben, PG Frets, EJ MeijersHeijboer, P Devilee, JGM Klijn, JC Oosterwijk, MF Niermeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Our experience with the first family in the Netherlands for whom predictive DNA-testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) became an option is described. This serves to illustrate the complex emotional impact on a family as a whole, and upon the members separately, of becoming aware that breast and ovarian cancer is hereditary, and the implications of undergoing predictive testing. All family members received genetic counseling and were offered pre- and post-test psychological follow-up.

We observed two important roles within the family, One member became ''the messenger of the news'' informing the relatives of the hereditary character of cancer in the family. Another was ''the first utilizer'' of the new options; namely, the predictive DNA-test and preventive surgery. This first utilizer became the example to the rest of the family. Decisions made about preventive treatment (prophylactic ovariectomy and/or mastectomy) were based on the experiences within the family, whether one identified with an affected family member with breast or with ovarian cancer.

The actions and reactions perceived were illustrative of what kind of support provisions should be provided in addition to the genetic and oncological counseling for HBOC. Moreover HBOC should be considered both as an individual and a family problem and be treated as such in genetic counseling. (C) 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11-Jul-1997


  • predictive DNA-test
  • genetic counseling
  • HBOC
  • BRCA1
  • family dynamics
  • breast cancer
  • RISK

Cite this