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Welsh women waiting years for cancer genetic test results

5 October 2009
Appeared in BioNews 528

Edwina Hart, the Welsh Assembly Minister for Health and Social Services, has said that some women in Wales at increased risk of developing hereditary breast cancer are having to wait up to three years to get their genetic test results, while English women are waiting only eight weeks.

Around 5-10 per cent of cancers of the breast and ovary are due to an inherited predisposition, with many cases caused by mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

The length of Welsh waiting times were highlighted after Conservative MP David Davies wrote to Mrs Hart discussing the case of one of his constituents, who had a daughter who had been offered the test because of a family history of breast cancer.

In her response, Mrs Hart confirmed the three year waiting time and then went on to discuss the testing process and funding.

'The genetics laboratory is funded for 60 and reports on about 80 [breast cancer] samples per year. These are complex and time-consuming. Each sample has 67 tests carried out on it, assessing over 1,700 data points, all of which are independently checked by genetics laboratory scientists'.

'The Medical Genetics Services in Wales are highly valued: the funding for these services is reviewed annually and prioritised alongside other specialised services. You will understand that the priority attached to some genetic tests is not as high as tests for patients at immediate risk of disease'.

However, Mr Davies has said that it is a disgrace for women in Wales to have to wait so long and raised his concern over the differences in NHS guidelines between Wales and England. 'There is something seriously wrong when women are waiting three years for tests when across the border in England it is accepted that results should be made available within a couple of months', Mr Davies said, adding 'It seems this is another example of people getting a worse deal from the NHS because they live in Wales'.

The Institute of Medical Genetics at Cardiff University began a series of patient panels in September this year and will be holding more over the next coming month. It is hoped that these panels will give patients who have used the cancer genetics service for Wales (CGSW) a chance to help shape the service's future.

Dr Rachel Iredale, who leads the research team at the Cancer Genetics Service for Wales, said: 'While it's important that people get access to advice and support, it's important that they get the right advice at the right time and that the services we offer meet their needs'.
Cancer genetics advice
Wales Online |  28 September 2009
Three-year wait for genetic breast cancer test results
Wales Online |  28 October 2009
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