Motivation to perform presymptomatic testing in portuguese subjects at-risk for late-onset genetic diseases

Ângela Leite*, Maria Alzira P. Dinis, Jorge Sequeiros, Constança Paúl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The role of the clinical psychologist in the context of genetic counseling includes support for the process of decision-making for subjects at-risk, regardless of the decision that was made. For this, it is important to know the motivations behind these decisions. What may be considered advantageous and justifiable reasons to perform the PST for genetic diseases from the medical and public point of view, i.e., planning for the future, helping in the choice of a profession, family planning, improving quality of life and contributing to health, may not be recognized as such by the individual seeking the PST. This study addresses the motivation to perform the presymptomatic testing (PST) of subjects atrisk for three diseases, Familial Amyloid Polyneuro pathy (FAP), Huntington's disease (HD), and Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), compared with the motivation to perform the PST for Hemochromatosis (HH). FAP, HD and MJD are three genetic (monogenic) autosomal dominant late-onset diseases (LONDs) with no cure. FAP is a progressive sensorimotor and autonomic neuropathy of adult hood. HD is characterized by a triad of clinical symptoms of chorea (motor, cognitive and psy chiatric symptoms), emotional distress and cogn itive decline. MJD is characterized by slowly progressive clumsiness in the arms and legs, a staggering lurching gait, sometimes mistaken for drunkenness, difficulty with speech and swallow ing, involuntary eye movements, and may be accompanied by double vision or bulging eyes, and lower limb spasticity. HH is a disease in which too much iron accumulates in parenchymal organs, leading to iron overload and subsequent organ toxicity and failure. The study participants consisted in 213 subjects at genetic risk for FAP, HD, and MJD and 31 subjects at genetic risk for HH, that were assessed through an interview to obtain sociodemographic data and the answer to one question about motivation to perform PST: "Which were the reasons that led you to perform the predictive test?" This study was carried out in Center for Predictive and Preventive Genetics (CGPP), Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC), Porto (Portugal). This research used a mixed-method, since qualitative and quantitative techniques of data analysis were used. Before deciding to seek genetic counseling and to know their genetic status, subjects at-risk have naturally considered their motives and it was probably the pro-counseling reasons the ones dictating the motivation to perform the PST. This may suggest that in fact there is a prior selfselection to the test, i.e. only those considering to have emotional skills to go through the process, performing the test. Seven major categories were obtained. The most significant ones for FAP, HD and MJD were reasons related to the future, reasons related to others and reasons related to curiosity and to the need to know. For HH, the most important ones were reasons related to others and reasons related to the characteristics of the disease. The motivation of subjects at-risk to perform the PST for FAP, HD and MJD is external and unrelated to the disease, while the motivation of subjects at-risk to perform the PST for HH is related to the disease. Reasons related to others are a common motivation: as subjects at-risk for FAP, HD and MJD, subjects at-risk for HH also chose reasons related to others as one of the most important motivations to carry out the PST. These subjects also care about the fact that they can transmit the disease to their children and care about other family members which are already ill. The category reasons related to others includes subcategories that identify the person and the situation that led to the decision to perform a PST. Subjects at-risk are also concerned about the fact that they have to decide whether or not to have children and its economic implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-140
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Familial Amyl oid Poly neuropathy (FAP)
  • Genetic diseases
  • Hunting ton's disease (HD)
  • Machado-Joseph disease (MJD)
  • Motivation to perform the PST
  • Subjects at-risk
  • TTR
  • V30M


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