Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 505–514 | Cite as

Knowledge and Expectations of Women Undergoing Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment: A Qualitative Analysis of Free-Text Questionnaire Comments

  • C. PhelpsEmail author
  • F. Wood
  • P. Bennett
  • K. Brain
  • J. Gray
Original Research

Individuals undergoing cancer genetic risk assessment have been found to have a poor understanding of the process, which may affect how well they cope with learning their risk. This paper reports free-text data from questionnaires completed by women undergoing a randomised controlled trial of a psychological intervention. Of the 268 women undergoing genetic assessment for familial breast/ovarian cancer risk who were invited to take part in the trial, 157 women returned research questionnaires. Of these, 97 women provided free-text comments upon referral to a cancer genetics clinic, 62 provided comments whilst waiting for risk information (average, moderate or high), and 36 women provided comments following notification of risk. This paper reports a thematic analysis of the free-text data. Themes reflected individuals’ poor knowledge and uncertainty about genetic risk assessment. How well individuals responded to learning their risk depended upon whether expectations had been met. Regardless of risk, individuals undergoing cancer genetic risk assessment are likely to benefit from increased information about its process and timescales, and access to increased psychological support. Free-text comments can provide valuable data about individuals’ expectations and knowledge of genetics services.


breast/ovarian cancer knowledge qualitative risk assessment uncertainty 



This study was approved by the South East Wales Local Research Ethics Committee and formed part of a PhD Studentship funded by the Wales Office for Research & Development (WORD). We thank all the women who took part in this study. At the time of the study Jonathon Gray was supported by Tenovus, the Cancer Charity.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Phelps
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • F. Wood
    • 2
  • P. Bennett
    • 3
  • K. Brain
    • 1
  • J. Gray
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Medical GeneticsCardiff University School of MedicineCardiffUK
  2. 2.Department of General PracticeCardiff University School of MedicineCardiffUK
  3. 3.Nursing, Health and Social Care Research CentreCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  4. 4.Cancer Genetics Service for WalesInstitute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff and Vale NHS TrustCardiffUK
  5. 5., SAC Building, Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff UniversitySchool of MedicineCardiffUK

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