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Peer Intervention Reduces Stress Among BRCA1/2 Carriers

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Peer intervention among others who are diagnosed with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations reduces distress among participants. These results were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Individuals diagnosed with either the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 gene mutations are at a significantly increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer within their lifetimes compared to the general public.

Once diagnosed with the mutation(s), women need to decide upon which approach to take. They have several options ranging from radical prevention measures, such as the surgical removal of both breasts (radical mastectomy) and/or ovaries, to increased screening measures, to the decision to do nothing different than women without the mutation.

The amount of information, as well as the mental and emotional decisions surrounding this issue can result in women having distress and anxiety.

Therefore, researchers from Australia recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate whether peer intervention among women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations would affect their emotional distress and levels of information regarding the issue. The study included 337 participants, some of whom participated in usual group care and some of whom participated in the intervention group. The intervention group consisted of telephone-based peer-delivered interactions.

Patients reported a greater reduction in distress surrounding breast cancer if they participated in the intervention group.
Patients also reported an improvement in information needs if they participated in the intervention group.
The researchers stated that “The intervention is effective in reducing distress and unmet information needs for this group of women. Identifying strategies for prolonging intervention effects is warranted.”

Reference: White V, Young M-A, Farrelly a, et al. Randomized controlled trial of a telephone-based peer-support program for women carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation: impact on psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online before print November 17, 2014, doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.54.1607.