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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 11:15 GMT
Patients 'get cancer gene advice'
Genetic tests
Gene tests can spot those at risk of some cancers
More people are being encouraged to find out if they have a high risk of developing cancer.

The Department of Health and the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief are spending 1.5m on four cancer genetic risk assessment pilots.

The pilots, which will run in Bradford, south London and Middlesbrough, aim to help people who believe they may have a genetic risk of developing cancer.

They will be encouraged to seek advice and if needed undergo tests.

Gene risk

Between 5% and 10% of cancers are caused by inherited genes. Testing for these genes can identify whether someone with a strong family history of the disease is likely to develop it.

The pilots will focus on people affected by breast, bowel and ovarian cancer.

Many people overestimate their risk of getting cancer
Dr Fred Kavalier,
Guy's Hospital London
Staff at Guy's Hospital in London will run one of the schemes. They are hoping to encourage people from ethnic minorities living in Lambeth and Southwark in south London to find out if they are at risk of developing cancer.

"Our project is aimed at bringing this service out into the community so people can see someone locally who will be able to assess their cancer risks," said Dr Fred Kavalier, a primary care geneticist at the hospital.

"Many people overestimate their risk of getting cancer. People think if one of their parents had cancer they are destined to get it too. But actually that is usually not true.

"Most people who come forward who are worried about their risk probably won't have a risk. We can confidently reassure those people.

"A small number of people will genuinely have a high risk. We can offer them information, tests such as earlier or more intensive screening or a genetic test."

Dame Gill Oliver, director of service development at Macmillan Cancer Relief, said the schemes would benefit patients.

"This area of clinical work is expanding as awareness of inherited cancers and public demand for an assessment service grows.

"However, at present not everyone is able to benefit from the good care and support they should expect.

"The new pilots will build on existing expertise, developing services that will ensure the same high quality information, care and support to people wherever they live."

Health Minister Lord Warner said: "Service users and leading experts in cancer and genetics we will explore better ways of providing access to services for hereditary cancer to NHS patients who could benefit.

"The experiences and results of these pilots will be used to develop future cancer genetics services in England."

Dr Michelle Barclay of Breakthrough Breast Cancer welcomed the move.

"We have already established a large group of women concerned about their family history of breast cancer, to help shape genetic services for those at increased risk. We hope the programme announced today will help address some of the issues already highlighted to us.

"This includes ensuring those at increased risk of cancer are identified and managed by health professionals across the country to a consistent high standard, as well as making sure people have access to enough support and accurate information about hereditary disease and the options available."

Call for gene test restrictions
09 Apr 03  |  Health

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