'A low risk is still a risk': exploring women's attitudes towards genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility in order to target disease prevention

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Population breast cancer screening programs by mammography are offered to women based on age. It has been suggested that a screening program based on genetic risk profile could be more effective by targeting interventions at those at higher genetic risk. This study explores women's attitudes towards genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility in order to target breast cancer prevention. A qualitative study was conducted using 4 focus groups with 26 women aged 42-73 years. Women were selected irrespective of personal or family history of breast cancer. Discussions were audiotaped and content analyzed. The results show that in general women are positive towards a breast cancer screening program based on genetic risk profile, provided that in the low-risk group, though less frequent, women are still offered mammography screening (i.e. right to screening (a)). Other themes that women addressed were: (b) value of the genetic risk information (e.g. possibilities for cancer prevention at younger ages, less screening burden for low-risk women), (c) personal autonomy (e.g. free choice to undergo testing), (d) dealing with test results (e.g. burden of risk, motivation to reduce the risk), (e) discrimination, and (f) financial aspects and priority (e.g. with respect to other health care programs). These results suggest that women currently offered breast cancer screening based on age have a positive attitude towards population susceptibility screening for breast cancer, but also identified issues that need to be discussed and studied further, especially if women in the low-risk group were no longer to be offered mammography screening
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-247
JournalPublic Health Genomics
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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