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Predictive genetic testing for Huntington's disease: Exploring participant experiences of uncertainty and ambivalence between clinic appointments

Ballard, L. M., Doheny, S. ORCID:, Dimond, R. ORCID:, Lucassen, A. M. and Clarke, A. J. ORCID: 2024. Predictive genetic testing for Huntington's disease: Exploring participant experiences of uncertainty and ambivalence between clinic appointments. Journal of Genetic Counseling 10.1002/jgc4.1911

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Ambivalence and uncertainty are key themes throughout the psychology of healthcare literature. This is especially so for individuals at risk of Huntington's disease (HD) deliberating the decision to undergo genetic testing because there is currently no treatment that modifies disease progression. A better understanding of the experience of making a decision about genetic prediction will help practitioners support and guide individuals through this process. Our aim was to capture participants' experiences of uncertainty and ambivalence in between their genetic counseling appointments. We explored these issues through the experiences of nine participants who were referred for predictive HD testing at four regional genetics services in England and Wales. Data consisted of recordings of clinic consultations, diaries, and an in‐depth interview conducted at the end of the testing process. Data were analyzed thematically. Four themes were identified representing four possible futures, each future dependent on the decision to undergo testing and the result of that test. Our results showed that participants, as well as attending more to a future that represents their current situation of not having undergone predictive testing, also attended more to a distant future where a positive predictive result is received and symptoms have started. Participants attended less to the two futures that were more immediate once testing was undertaken (a future where a positive result is received and symptoms have not started and a future where a negative result is received). The use of diaries gave us a unique insight into these participants' experiences of ambivalence and uncertainty, psychological distress, and the emotional burden experienced. These findings help inform discussions within the clinic appointment as well as encourage researchers to consider diary use as a method of exploring what happens for individuals outside of clinical encounters.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1059-7700
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 May 2024
Date of Acceptance: 5 February 2024
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 10:15

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