A counselee-oriented perspective on risk communication in genetic counseling: Explaining the inaccuracy of the counselees' risk perception shortly after BRCA1/2 test result disclosure

J de Vos, AM Stiggelbout, J Oosterwijk, E Gomez-Garcia, F Menko, Margriet Collee, CJ van Asperen, Aad Tibben

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Purpose: Genetic counseling may help counselees understand their genetic risk of developing breast/ovarian cancer. However, many studies have shown that their perception of their risks is inaccurate. Information-oriented variables often predicted the level of accuracy, focusing on specific processes of receiving and processing risks. We examined counselee-oriented predictors about how counselees embed cancer risks in their lives. These predictors reflect the personal meaning of genetic risks and are expected to explain/mediate the impact of genetic counseling on risk-perception-accuracy. Method: We analyzed 248 questionnaires of a prospective study, filled in by probands with breast/ovarian cancer and pathogenic mutations, unclassified variants, or uninformative results (n = 30, 16, and 202, respectively). Mediation regression analyses were performed to examine whether counselee predictors mediated/explained the influence of information predictors on the accuracy. Information-oriented predictors regarded presentation format, communicated information, question format, education, pedigree information, cancer experience, and cognitive processes/heuristics. Counselee-oriented predictors regarded their self/personality, life/existence, and need for certainty about DNA test result, heredity, and cancer. Results: Both information-oriented and counselee-oriented variables significantly predicted the accuracy of the counselees' risk perception, with moderate to large effect sizes. Counselee-oriented variables completely mediated/explained the effects of information-oriented variables on the accuracy. Discussion: Counselees seemed to transform objective cancer risks into personally relevant information. Only through this personal meaning of genetic information, information-oriented processes seemed to cause inaccurate perceptions. Genetic counselors are suggested to focus communication on these personal processes. Genet Med 2011:13(9):800-811.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)800-811
Number of pages12
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Research programs

  • EMC MGC-02-96-01

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