Distress in partners of individuals diagnosed with or at high risk of developing tumors due to rare hereditary cancer syndromes

Chantal R. M. Lammens, Eveline M. A. Bleiker, S. Verhoef, M. G. E. M. Ausems, Danielle Majoor-Krakauer, Rolf H. Sijmons, Frederik J. Hes, E. B. Gomez-Garcia, Theo A. Mvan Os, L. Spruijt, Rob B. van der Luijt, Ans M. W. van den Ouweland, M. W. G. Ruijs, C. Gundy, T. Nagtegaal, Neil K. Aaronson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Li Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) and Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) are two rare hereditary tumor syndromes, characterized by a high risk of developing multiple tumors at various sites and ages for which preventive and treatment options are limited. For partners, it may be difficult to deal with the on-going threat of tumors in both their spouse and children. Therefore, this study aims to evaluate the prevalence of and factors associated with psychological distress among partners of individuals with or at high risk of LFS or VHL. Methods: As part of a nationwide, cross-sectional study, partners of individuals diagnosed with or at high risk of LFS or VHL were invited to complete a self-report questionnaire assessing distress, worries, and health-related quality of life. Results: Fifty-five (58%) of those high-risk individuals with a partner consented to having their partner approached for the study. In total, 50 partners (91%) completed the questionnaire, of whom 28% reported clinically relevant levels of syndrome-related distress. Levels of distress and worries of the partners and their high-risk spouse were significantly correlated. Younger age and a lack of social support were also associated significantly with heightened levels of distress and worries. The majority of partners (76%) believed that professional psychosocial support should be routinely offered to them. Conclusions: Approximately one-quarter of the partners exhibit clinically relevant levels of distress that warrant psychological support. The distress levels of the 'patient' could potentially be used to identify partners at risk of developing clinically relevant levels of distress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-638
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS)
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL)
  • partners
  • quality of life
  • distress
  • psychosocial impact
  • cancer worries

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