Telling Kids About Breast Cancer Genetic Testing

When Angelina Jolie announced she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy, people asked why. The actress explained that she carried a mutation in a gene known as BRCA1 that increased her chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Her operation opened the nation’s eyes to just how important it is to know about hereditary cancer. According to a new study, a majority of mothers who get genetic testing talk to their children about it, especially if these women get the good news that they don’t have the gene mutations.

The research, conducted at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, found that most mothers who were considering genetic testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations already were thinking of talking with their children, especially if they had a family history of breast and ovarian cancer. They also noted that moms who did not discuss their test results with their children were more likely to regret that decision later on.

The study, published online Wednesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, looked at 221 mothers of children ages 8 to 21 who were enrolled in a parent communication study at one of three major cancer centers: Georgetown Lombardi, Mount Sinai cancer center in New York and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The women completed questionnaires before they had their genetic testing and one month after receiving their results.


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