The magnetic resonance imaging screening (MRISC) study evaluates a surveillance programme for women with a hereditary risk for breast cancer. The psychological burden of surveillance in these women may depend on inaccurate risk perceptions. To examine differences in risk perceptions between three predefined risk categories and associations with psychological distress. BC-specific distress, general distress, and RP (cognitive and affective) were assessed, two months before a surveillance appointment. Cumulative lifetime risk (CLTR) of developing breast cancer was trichotomised into: (1) CLTR of 60-85% (mutation carriers), (2) CLTR of 30-50%, and (3) CLTR of 15-30%. In a total group of 351 women (mean age 40.5 years, range 21-63 years) the three risk categories significantly differed in their accuracy of assessing cognitive risk perceptions. In category 1, 60% had an accurate risk perceptions, in category 2, 43.7% and in category 3, 33.3%. Overestimators reported significantly more breast cancer-specific distress. After adding affective risk perception to the model, this effect disappeared. Affective risk perceptions showed significant associations with breast cancer-specific and general distress. Affective risk perception is a more important determinant for psychological distress than cognitive risk perception. This knowledge should be used during surveillance appointments in order to improve and individualise support for these women.

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European Journal of Cancer
Department of Surgery

van Dooren, S., Rijnsburger, A., Seynaeve, C., Duivenvoorden, H., Essink-Bot, M.-L., Tilanus-Linthorst, M., … Tibben, A. (2004). Psychological distress in women at increased risk for breast cancer: The role of risk perception. European Journal of Cancer, 40(14), 2056–2063. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2004.05.004