Guilt, blame and responsibility: Men's understanding of their role in the transmission of BRCA1/2 mutations within their family

Public Health Sciences, The Medical School, University of Edinburgh, and Western Australia Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care Research, Perth, UK.
Sociology of Health & Illness (Impact Factor: 1.88). 12/2006; 28(7):969-88. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2006.00515.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Men and women who have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer may be offered a predictive genetic test to determine whether or not they carry the family specific BRCA1/2 mutation. The sons and daughters of mutation carriers have a 50 per cent chance of inheriting a mutation, which will increase their risk of developing cancer. Little is known about at-risk men's feelings about the part they play in the transmission of BRCA1/2 mutations within their families. This study investigated high risk men's responses to BRCA1/2 predictive genetic testing. Seventeen in-depth interviews were undertaken with carrier (n= 5) and non-carrier men (n= 12). All men described genetic testing as a familial duty. It is observed that carriers and non-carriers mobilised differing explanations about their role in the aetiology of risk. It is noted that men engage in a form of narrative reconstruction in which they draw upon discourses of guilt and blame or fate and predestiny in an effort to present themselves as morally responsible or blameless. It is argued that narrative reconstruction enables these men to reconcile their genetic identity, self and family.

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