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Family Communication and Genetic Counseling: The Case of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

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Journal of Genetic Counseling


In familial breast/ovarian cancer, the information that the proband is able to supply about other family members is of critical importance for genetic counseling. This frequently requires family communication. Forty-six women attending a cancer genetics clinic were interviewed as part of a longitudinal study. Nearly all reported affected maternal, rather than paternal relatives, which may indicate lack of awareness by women with paternal histories. There was also much more communication among female relatives. Mothers, where they were still alive, were key figures in supplying family information. Although the majority of the sample contacted at least one relative regarding counseling, most named a relative with whom they did not feel able to communicate on this subject. Probands balanced the perceived obligation of passing on information with that of not causing alarm. Communication, both obtaining and giving information, was impeded by adoption, divorce and remarriage, family rifts, and large age gaps between siblings.

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Green, J., Richards, M., Murton, F. et al. Family Communication and Genetic Counseling: The Case of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer. Journal of Genetic Counseling 6, 45–60 (1997).

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