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How does genetic testing influence anxiety, depression, and quality of life? A hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome suspects trial



Emotional distress associated with genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC) is reported to interfere with adherence to treatment and prophylactic measures and compromise quality of life.


To determine levels of anxiety, depression, and quality of life in patients tested for pathogenic BRCA1/2 mutations and identify risk factors for the development of adverse psycho-emotional effects.


Cross-sectional observational trial involving 178 breast or ovarian cancer patients from a referral cancer hospital in Northeastern Brazil. Information was collected with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Quality of Life (QoL) questionnaire (WHOQOL-BREF).


Patients suspected of HBOC had higher levels of anxiety than depression. The presence of (probably) pathogenic BRCA1/2 mutations did not affect levels of anxiety and depression. High schooling, history of psychiatric disease, and use of psychotropic drugs were directly associated with high anxiety. High schooling was too inversely associated with QoL as such a breast tumor. Anxiety and depression were directly correlated and both reduced significantly QoL.


Our results highlight the importance of psychological support and screening of risk factors for anxiety and depression and low QoL in HBOC patients at the time of testing.

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Research Sponsor: Ministerio da Saude, Brazil (PRONON).

Author information




Francisca Fernanda Barbosa Oliveira: Data collection, analysis, data interpretation, and writing of the manuscript

Paulo Goberlânio de Barros Silva: Statistical analysis, data interpretation, and manuscript writing

Rosane Oliveira de Sant’Ana: Review and translation into English of the manuscript

Clarissa Gondim Picanço de Albuquerque: Review of the manuscript

Maria Júlia Barbosa Bezerra: Review and translation into English of the manuscript

Deysi Viviana Tenazoa Wong: Review of the manuscript

Flávio da Silveira Bitencourt: Review and translation into English of the manuscript

Isabelle Joyce de Lima Silva-Fernandes: Writing and critical review of the manuscript

Marcos Venicio Alves Lima: Review of the manuscript

All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Isabelle Joyce de Lima Silva-Fernandes.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The study received approval from the Ethics and Research Committee No. 3,286,353, and all participants signed the free and informed consent form.

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Oliveira, F.F.B., de Barros Silva, P.G., de Sant’Ana, R.O. et al. How does genetic testing influence anxiety, depression, and quality of life? A hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome suspects trial. Support Care Cancer 29, 3521–3530 (2021).

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  • Anxiety
  • Breast cancer
  • Depression
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian carcinoma syndrome
  • Quality of life