BRCA test backlog leads some women to opt for breast removal

20 June 2006

The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer has released a warning that delays for genetic test results are so long that women at risk of familial breast cancer are opting for mastectomies rather than wait two years for test results (see news). Familial breast cancer represents up to 5% of all cases; women with the disease-associated BRCA gene mutations have up to an 85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and up to 40% of ovarian cancer.

A survey by the charity found that 55% of the 27 genetic counsellors interviewed had seen patients who had their breasts removed whilst awaiting results from genetic screening for mutations associated with familial breast and ovarian cancer. 59% of the genetic counsellors also had patients who decided to go private because they had waited so long for NHS test results. Of the women with family histories of the disease and experience of the genetic screening process interviewed, 70% said that the wait made them worry about their own health or the health of their relatives (see report, Testing Times

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