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Conditions and Consequences of a BRCA Mutation in Young, Single Women of Childbearing Age

Rebekah Hamilton
Karen E. Hurley
ONF 2010, 37(5), 627-634 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.627-634

Purpose/Objectives: To explore the experiences of young, single women who are at increased risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) because of a BRCA mutation.

Research Approach: Qualitative.

Setting: Seven states and Canada.

Participants: 11 single women aged 18-35 years who tested positive for a BRCA mutation.

Methodologic Approach: Grounded theory with in-depth individual interviews conducted via e-mail or telephone.

Findings: Analysis resulted in three conditions and three consequences. Conditions were dating or not dating, time in a relationship, and physical impact of surgery or breast cancer treatment. Consequences were explaining their choices, experiencing a sense of urgency, and experiencing a sense of loss.

Conclusions: Young women who are at risk for HBOC face a complex array of decisions after finding out that they carry a BRCA mutation. Being single and childless adds to this complexity.

Interpretation: Nurses can listen to young women with HBOC risk, help them clarify their fears and understanding of their risk, and provide nonthreatening support that goes beyond simply providing more information and includes a nonjudgmental understanding of the young women's experience.

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