Inexpensive DNA test offers hope for earlier diagnosis of breast and ovarian cancer
Actress Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo preventative surgery because of her risk of inherited cancer has helped to highlight welcome progress in genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer.
Although lifestyle and diet still play an important part in a woman's risk of developing the cancers, the press has recently reported on a relatively inexpensive DNA test that indicates whether a woman is at increased risk by carrying a mutation gene.
The BRCA mutation gene can be passed onto children by a parent who carries it. Women who carry the BRCA mutation have a higher chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Although carrying the gene is not a definitive indication that someone will develop cancer, if a woman tests positive, she at least has the option to choose further screening, such as regular mammograms, MRI scans and blood tests. Genetic counselling is also generally recommended.
The £300 DNA test is currently available privately and from the NHS and could be an inexpensive way to provide a huge number of women with the means of predicting their risk of breast and ovarian cancer years before it develops.
But, unfortunately, as a current case that I am working on shows, even as recently as 2006 where a patient was undergoing increased screening due to a family history of breast cancer, genetic counselling about the link to an increased risk of ovarian cancer and BRCA mutation gene testing was not offered. Even now, awareness of the BRCA test is generally poor, testing on the NHS has only become a requirement in the last few years and access to the test is patchy.
At Fieldfisher, we act for many clients affected by delays in diagnosis of cancer, which severely reduces their prospect of successful treatment. Successful claims can help people rebuild their lives as far as possible and provide access to the best treatment available.
Sadly, ovarian cancer in particular can often be present for a significant amount of time before it causes symptoms and therefore it is often diagnosed late when the cancer is advanced. Any progress in detecting cancer at the earliest stage possible will undoubtedly save lives and is an important step forward in the fight against the disease.
By Helen Thompson, Associate
Helen Thompson is an Associate in the Clinical Negligence team. She acts exclusively on behalf of Claimants and also has experience of representing families at inquests.
Helen has experience of dealing with a wide range of complex and maximum severity medical negligence claims. She has particular interest in orthopaedic, gynaecological, surgical, birth injury and brain injury cases.
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