Does family communication matter? Exploring knowledge of breast cancer genetics in cancer families

  • Deborah O. HimesEmail author
  • Sarah H. Davis
  • Jane H. Lassetter
  • Neil E. Peterson
  • Margaret F. Clayton
  • Wendy C. Birmingham
  • Anita Y. Kinney
Original Article


Knowledge of breast cancer genetics is critical for those at increased hereditary risk who must make decisions about breast cancer screening options. This descriptive study explored theory-based relationships among cognitive and emotional variables related to knowledge of breast cancer genetics in cancer families. Participants included first-degree relatives of women with breast cancer who had received genetic counseling and testing. Study participants themselves did not have breast cancer and had not received genetic counseling or testing. Data were collected by telephone interviews and surveys. Variables analyzed included numeracy, health literacy, cancer-related distress, age, education, and the reported amount of information shared by the participants’ family members about genetic counseling. The multiple regression model explained 13.9% of variance in knowledge of breast cancer genetics (p = 0.03). Best fit of the multiple regression model included all variables except education. Reported amount of information shared was the only independently significant factor associated with knowledge (β = 0.28, p = 0.01). Participants who reported higher levels of information shared by a family member about information learned during a genetic counseling session also demonstrated increased knowledge about breast cancer genetics.


Knowledge Breast cancer Cancer genetics Family communication Genetic counseling Precision medicine Numeracy Health literacy 


Funding information

This study was funded by the Elaine Dyer Research Endowment, provided through the Brigham Young University College of Nursing and by a Graduate Research Fellowship, provided through the Office of Graduate Studies at Brigham Young University.

Previous research with first-degree relatives of current participants was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (1R01CA129142 to AYK and U01 CA152958, K05 CA096940, and U01 CA183081 to JSM) and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. The project was also supported by the Shared Resources (P30 CA042014) at Huntsman Cancer Institute (Biostatistics and Research Design, Genetic Counseling, Research Informatics, and the Utah Population Database [UPDB]); the Utah Cancer Registry, which is funded by Contract No. HHSN261201000026C from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program with additional support from the Utah State Department of Health and the University of Utah; the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant 8UL1TR000105 (formerly UL1RR025764).

Compliance with ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of NursingBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.College of Nursing, University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology - School of Public HealthRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA

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