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The Effect of BRCA Results on Young Couples

by Lindsey M. Hoskins MS, LGMFT

Researchers from the Clinical Genetics Branch of the National Cancer Institute are studying various psychosocial and behavioral issues that affect young women with BRCA1/2 mutations. Their first report on this research appeared in the September issue of Family Systems and Health (Lindsey M. Hoskins et al: Disclosure of Positive BRCA1/2-Mutation Status in Young Couples: The Journey from Uncertainty to Bonding through Partner Support).

Women in the study reported that they often felt fear and anxiety prior to sharing their BRCA mutation status with dating partners, yet many participants indicated that sharing their status had positive effects on their relationships. Partner support and empathy were essential to creating a positive mutation disclosure experience.

A follow-up study is being developed, and a new series of interviews is expected to begin in early 2009. This will focus on the experiences of young BRCA1/2-positive women in navigating tasks of young adulthood, including couple formation and/or marriage, family creation, and decision-making about risk-reduction strategies, and how those may be impacted by the mutation-positive experience. We hope to enroll approximately 40 BRCA1/2- positive young women in this new study.

Lindsey M. Hoskins, MS, is a licensed Couple and Family Therapist in Maryland. She has also trained in Medical Family Therapy in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Since 2005, Ms. Hoskins has been part of the Clinical Genetics Branch at the National Cancer Institute, where she works with women in hereditary breast/ovarian cancer families enrolled in the Breast Imaging Study.

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