To examine how women cope with genetic testing
for heightened susceptibility to breast cancer
Participants were 126 White women (age = 44 ± 9 years) who were participants in a larger study of genetic testing
for risk of different chronic diseases. All women were at higher-than-average risk for breast cancer
due to a personal and/or family history and were considering genetic testing
. Distress (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, Impact of Event Scale, Perceived Stress
Scale, Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) was assessed at four assessments; one before and three after the decision to have genetic testing
. The majority of women (n
= 100) had testing. The follow-up assessments occurred at 1 week after receiving results (or 3–4 months after baseline if testing was not elected), and then at 3 and 6 months after the second assessment. Coping
(Brief COPE) was measured at the first and third assessments.
was relatively stable over time and did not vary as a function of genetic test results. Active coping
strategies were used more often by women with a personal cancer history than by women without cancer. Use of avoidant coping
was reliably and positively associated with distress over time independent of cancer history and test result.
The identification of specific coping
styles that were associated with more or less distress is useful as a means of identifying and targeting coping
interventions and predicting which participants may be at risk for distress.
BRCA 1 = breast cancer 1 gene; BRCA 2 = breast cancer 2 gene; CGP = Cancer Genetics Program; SCL-90R = Symptom Checklist-90 Revised; GSI = Global Severity Index; MANCOVA = multivariate analysis of covariance.