Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 330–342

What Facilitates or Impedes Family Communication Following Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk? A Systematic Review and Meta-Synthesis of Primary Qualitative Research


    • School of Health SciencesUniversity of Southampton
  • Julia Addington-Hall
    • School of Health SciencesUniversity of Southampton
  • Anneke M. Lucassen
    • Wessex Clinical Genetic ServicePrincess Ann Hospital
  • Claire L. Foster
    • School of Health SciencesUniversity of Southampton
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s10897-010-9296-y

Cite this article as:
Chivers Seymour, K., Addington-Hall, J., Lucassen, A.M. et al. J Genet Counsel (2010) 19: 330. doi:10.1007/s10897-010-9296-y


To systematically review and meta-synthesise primary qualitative research findings regarding family communication following genetic testing of cancer risk, in order to inform development of effective interventions. Systematic searches of CINAHL, Embase, Medline, British Nursing Index and PsycINFO databases were undertaken and relevant studies identified using strict criteria. The selected primary qualitative studies were appraised for quality and relevance by three independent researchers and then synthesized using a “Framework” approach. Fourteen (4.3%) studies met the inclusion criteria. The following factors influenced family communication following genetic testing for late-onset hereditary cancer: the informant’s feelings about informing relatives about genetic testing; the perceived relevance of the information to other family members and their anticipated reactions; the “closeness” of relationships within the family; family rules and patterns (e.g., who is best placed to share information with whom); finding the right time and level of disclosure; and the supportive role of heath care professionals. The themes identified in this review could provide practitioners with a useful framework for discussing family communication with those undergoing genetic testing. This framework focuses on helping health care professionals to facilitate family communication. The next step will be the development of an intervention to directly support people in talking to their relatives.


Family communicationGenetic counsellingCancerGenetic testing

Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2010