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Juggling roles and expectations: dilemmas faced by women talking to relatives about cancer and genetic testing

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Health professionals do not inform their patients' kin about BRCA1/2 test results or genetic testing without their written consent. Thus, the onus is on women attending genetic counselling to talk to relatives about the family history and their potential increased risk. This communication process within the family is largely unexplored and provides the focus of the present study. Fifteen healthy women attending a genetics clinic for predictive testing were interviewed prior to receiving their test result and again 6 months later. A grounded theory approach was used. Findings illustrate the dilemmas women faced in juggling social roles and expectations, which had an impact on communication within the family in the context of predictive genetic testing. Tensions between responsibilities towards themselves and others and their fulfilment of social roles had an impact on who women informed and on how they did so. These factors should be considered when assigning patients the role of information provider.
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Keywords: Cancer; Communication; Family; Predictive genetic testing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Psychology Research Group The Institute of Cancer Research Cotswold Road Sutton Surrey SM2 5NG England 2: Cancer Genetics Team Royal Marsden NHS Trust Sutton Surrey SM2 5PT England

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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