Intrafamilial communication of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic information in Italian women: towards a personalised approach

A Correction to this article was published on 23 September 2020

This article has been updated


Genomic testing expansion is accompanied by an increasing need for genetic counselling and intrafamilial communication. Genetic counselling can play an important role in facilitating intrafamilial communication and relationships. We conducted a cross-sectional, multicenter study including 252 Italian women, using a questionnaire divided in two sections, the first one to be filled after the pre-test counselling and the second after receiving BRCA test results. We assessed the factors influencing intrafamilial disclosure of genetic information for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, family members with whom probands are more prone to share genetic information, and the perceived understanding of information received by counselees during genetic counselling. Women were accompanied to the counselling more often by their husband/partner. Among those with a positive BRCA test result, 49% intended to communicate it to their offspring and 27% to their husband/partner. Younger women, those living with their husband/partner, and those who described family communication as open/profound and spontaneous/sincere had a higher probability of being accompanied during genetic counselling and discuss about it with relatives. Spontaneous/sincere or open/profound family communication and joyful/happy familial relationships were associated with the decision to undergo genetic testing as a responsibility towards relatives. Women had a good understanding of counselling contents (mean score 9.27 in a scale 1–10). Genetic counselling providers should consider that genetic information disclosure does not depend only on the clarity of the information provided, but also on pre-existing intrafamilial communication and relationships, family structure and marital status, indicating the need for a personalised approach accounting for these factors.

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Fig. 1: Participants’ flowchart.
Fig. 2: Correlations between factors influencing the communication of genetic information.

Change history

  • 19 September 2020

    An amendment to this article has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the article.

  • 23 September 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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Correspondence to Drieda Zaçe.

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Di Pietro, M.L., Zaçe, D., Orfino, A. et al. Intrafamilial communication of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic information in Italian women: towards a personalised approach. Eur J Hum Genet (2020).

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