J Genet Couns 2016 06 22;25(3):520-8. Epub 2015 Oct 22.
Zane Cohen Centre for Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Currently, there is a lack of evidence evaluating the psychological impact of cancer-related risk perception and worry in individuals at high risk for gastric cancer. We examined the relationships between perceived risk, cancer worry and screening behaviors among first-degree relatives (FDRs) of patients with familial gastric cancer. FDRs of patients diagnosed with familial gastric cancer with a non-informative genetic analysis were identified and contacted. Participants completed a telephone interview that assessed socio-demographic information, cancer risk perception, cancer worry, impact of worry on daily functioning, and screening behaviors. Twenty-five FDRs completed the telephone interview. Participants reported high levels of comparative and absolute cancer risk perception, with an average perceived lifetime risk of 54 %. On the other hand, cancer-related worry scores were low, with a significant minority (12 %) experiencing high levels of worry. Study participants exhibited high levels of confidence (median = 70 %) in the effectiveness of screening at detecting a curable cancer. Participants that had undergone screening in the past showed significantly lower levels of cancer-related worry compared to those that had never undergone screening. In conclusion, individuals at high-risk for gastric cancer perceived a very high personal risk of cancer, but reported low levels of cancer worry. This paradoxical result may be attributed to participants' high levels of confidence in the effectiveness of screening. These findings highlight the importance for clinicians to discuss realistic risk appraisals and expectations towards screening with unaffected members of families at risk for gastric cancer, in an effort to help mitigate anxiety and help with coping.