Family system characteristics and psychological adjustment to cancer susceptibility genetic testing: A prospective study
This study examined prospectively the contribution of family functioning, differentiation to parents, family communication and support from relatives to psychological distress in individuals undergoing genetic susceptibility testing for a known familial pathogenic BRCA1/2 or Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer-related mutation. Family functioning, differentiation to parents, hereditary cancer-related family communication and perceived support from relatives were assessed in 271 participants for genetic testing before test result disclosure. Hereditary cancer distress (assessed by the Impact of Event Scale) and cancer worry (assessed by the Cancer Worry Scale) were assessed before, 1 week after, and 6 months after test result disclosure. Participants reporting more cancer-related distress over the study period more frequently perceived the communication about hereditary cancer with relatives as inhibited, the nuclear family functioning as disengaged-rigid or enmeshed-chaotic, the support from partner as less than adequate and the relationship to mother as less differentiated. Especially, open communication regarding hereditary cancer and partner support may be important buffers against hereditary cancer distress. Identifying individuals with insufficient sources of support and addressing the family communication concerning hereditary cancer in genetic counseling may help the counselee to adjust better to genetic testing.