Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1301–1313 | Cite as

“It was an Emotional Baby”: Previvors’ Family Planning Decision-Making Styles about Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk

  • Marleah Dean
  • Emily A. Rauscher
Original Research


Women who test positive for a BRCA genetic mutation are at an increased risk for developing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and have a 50% chance of passing on their genetic mutation to their children. The purpose of this study was to investigate how women who test positive for a BRCA mutation but have not been diagnosed with cancer make decisions regarding family planning. Analysis of interviews with 20 women revealed they engage in logical and emotional decision-making styles. Although women want to be logical to reduce their hereditary cancer risk, emotions often complicate their decision-making. Women experience fear and worry about a future cancer diagnosis, yet also desire to create a family, particularly having children through natural conception. That is, women negotiate having preventative surgeries in a logical doctor-recommended timeframe but also organize those decisions around emotional desires of motherhood. Overall, this study demonstrates the complex decisions women who test positive for a BRCA mutation must make in regards to genetic testing timing, family planning, and overall quality of life.


Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer Decision-making Genetic risk Disease risk Genetic testing Family communication BRCA1, BRCA2 Qualitative research 



We would like to express our gratitude to Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) for allowing them to recruit participants. We would also like to thank our participating for being willing to share their family planning experiences with us.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Authors Marleah Dean, PhD and Emily Rauscher, PhD declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Animal Studies

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationThe University of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of CommunicationTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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