Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 249–257 | Cite as

Life Events may Contribute to Family Communication About Cancer Risk Following BRCA1/2 Testing

  • Julie Lapointe
  • Claudia Côté
  • Karine Bouchard
  • Béatrice Godard
  • Jacques Simard
  • Michel DorvalEmail author
Original Research


We assessed whether certain life events contributed to the communication about cancer risk within families who have undergone BRCA1/2 testing. We also explored what type of resources participants would have valued to help in supporting family communication about genetic information. Two hundred and forty-six individuals (218 women, 28 men) who received a BRCA1/2 genetic test result 3 to 10 years earlier (mean of 6.4 years) participated in a telephone interview. Participants were asked about the occurrence of a number of life events (cancer diagnosis, death, uptake of prophylactic surgery, and providing care to a family member with cancer) in their family since their BRCA1/2 test result disclosure and, for each occurrence, whether it fostered family communication about cancer risk. A total of 182 participants (74 %) reported that they or one of their relatives received a cancer diagnosis, 176 (72 %) reported that someone died in their family, and 73 (30 %) stated that they or one of their relatives undertook a prophylactic surgery. During this period, 109 participants (44 %) also provided care for a family member who had cancer. Among participants who reported these life events, family communication was fostered by these events in proportions varying from 50 % (death) to 69 % (cancer diagnosis). Our results indicate that life events may contribute to family communication about cancer risk. Further research is needed to determine whether these events provide a “window of opportunity” to reach family members, address their needs and concerns about cancer, update family cancer history, and introduce genetic counseling and risk assessment.


Cancer susceptibility Cancer diagnosis Death of a family member Family communication Hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer Life events 



This research study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (Grant No. MOP 82917). Julie Lapointe is a CIHR Fellow in Psychosocial Oncology Research and Training (PORT) and is funded through a CIHR Training Grant (No. TGF- 63285) and the Fonds d’enseignement et de recherche de la Faculté de pharmacie de l’Université Laval; Jacques Simard is Chairholder of the Canada Research Chair in Oncogenetics; and Michel Dorval holds a Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec Investigator Award. The authors would like to thank Guy Rousseau for linguistic revision.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no financial or other conflicting interests with the content of this article.


Part of these results was presented in a poster format at the 12th International Meeting on Psychosocial Aspects of Hereditary Cancer (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 27–29, 2011).


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Lapointe
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claudia Côté
    • 2
  • Karine Bouchard
    • 2
  • Béatrice Godard
    • 3
  • Jacques Simard
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michel Dorval
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculté de pharmacieUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Unité de recherche en santé des populations, Hôpital du Saint-SacrementCentre de recherche FRSQ du Centre hospitalier affilié universitaire de QuébecQuébecCanada
  3. 3.Omics-Ethics Research GroupUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Département de médecine moléculaire, Faculté de médecineUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Laboratoire de génomique des cancersCentre de recherche du CHUQ-CHULQuébecCanada
  6. 6.Centre des maladies du sein Deschênes-FabiaCentre hospitalier affilié universitaire de QuébecQuébecCanada

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