Previvors’ Uncertainty Management Strategies for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

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Individuals with a genetic predisposition to develop hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), but who have not been diagnosed with cancer, are referred to as previvors. Although genetic testing may reduce previvors’ worries about whether or not they have a high genetic cancer risk, testing positive produces negative emotions and long-term uncertainty—thus requiring the management of uncertainty. Existing research indicates family, friends, and social support networks are limited in their assistance for previvors’ uncertainty management. Therefore, this study examined how health care providers may assist previvors in uncertainty management by asking: What strategies do BRCA-positive previvors enact with their health care providers to help manage their uncertainty about HBOC? Purposive sampling was employed to recruit participants via online social media. The final sample consisted of 34 BRCA-positive women. Interviews revealed four uncertainty management strategies—seeking health care providers as informational sources, seeking health care providers as partners for decision making, seeking health care providers for supportive communication, and seeking referrals from health care providers for social support networks. Findings indicate that health care providers who are knowledgeable about BRCA, provide information, answer questions, check understanding, and provide additional resources assist previvors in managing their uncertainties by distinguishing options and fostering meaning.

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Health Communication, v. 33, issue 2, p. 122-130