Familial Cancer

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 617–624 | Cite as

Pancreatic cancer risk counselling and screening: impact on perceived risk and psychological functioning

  • Christine MaheuEmail author
  • Andrea Vodermaier
  • Heidi Rothenmund
  • Steve Gallinger
  • Paola Ardiles
  • Kara Semotiuk
  • Spring Holter
  • Saumea Thayalan
  • Mary Jane Esplen


Individuals at increased risk for pancreatic cancer who undergo screening can experience psychological and emotional distress. The objective of this study is to determine whether individuals participating in a pancreatic cancer screening program experience disruptions in risk perception, cancer-related anxiety or emotional distress. A pretestposttest design was used to examine perceived risk and psychological functioning of individuals participating in a pancreatic cancer screening protocol. The screening protocol includes genetic counselling, transcutaneous abdominal ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and blood collection and eligible participants included individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer or BRCA2 mutation carriers. At baseline, participants (n = 198) showed low to moderate levels of risk perception, pancreatic cancer-related anxiety, and general distress. Participants with familial pancreatic cancer (FPC) (n = 131) endorsed higher risk perception of pancreatic cancer than the BRCA2 carriers (n = 67) (perceived lifetime risk 42 vs. 15%), but did not differ on cancer worry or general distress prior to the first study appointment. From baseline to 3 months follow-up, no significant time or time by group interactions emerged on risk perception or general distress, but cancer worry decreased over time for the FPC group regardless of the number of affected relatives. Our findings indicate that participation in a pancreatic cancer screening program does not lead to a significant increase in risk perception, cancer worry, or general distress and that participants with high baseline levels of risk perception and distress may benefit from a more comprehensive risk assessment and psychological support.


BRCA2 Cancer worry Distress Familial pancreatic cancer Risk perception Screening 



We thank the Pancreatic Cancer Canada foundation ( for their continued support of research into the early detection of pancreatic cancer, and the Pancreas Cancer Screening Study at Mount Sinai Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. We also thank Kate Butler, Laura Mehedan and Jiahui Wong for their critical review on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Maheu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Vodermaier
    • 2
    • 3
  • Heidi Rothenmund
    • 4
  • Steve Gallinger
    • 4
  • Paola Ardiles
    • 5
  • Kara Semotiuk
    • 4
  • Spring Holter
    • 4
  • Saumea Thayalan
    • 4
  • Mary Jane Esplen
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology-GrosshadernUniversity of Munich MunichGermany
  4. 4.Familial GI Cancer RegistryMount Sinai HospitalTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Program of Psychosocial & Psychotherapy Research in Cancer Genetics, Division of Behavioral Sciences and HealthToronto General Research Institute, University Health NetworkTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Faculty of NursingUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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