Saturday 19 October 2019

'I had to wait a year for gene test despite eight of my family being diagnosed with cancer'

Agony: Róisín Prizeman spoke out to highlight problems. Photo: Andres Poveda
Agony: Róisín Prizeman spoke out to highlight problems. Photo: Andres Poveda
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A Dublin woman who saw eight of her close relatives, including her mother and sister, diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer was forced to wait for a year to find out whether she was at risk too.

Mother-of-one Róisín Prize­man (52), a primary-school teacher, endured the agonising delay before discovering she also has the BRCA1 gene, which raises her chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Ms Prizeman spoke out yesterday as the Irish Cancer Society highlighted the lack of funding for testing services that screen people to let them know whether they have inherited a gene putting them at higher risk of some cancers.

"Families across the country are being let down because of a crisis in genetic-cancer services," she said.

Ms Prizeman also revealed that after she decided to take the radical step of having a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy, she received just one counselling session.

Averil Power, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, said: "We are deeply alarmed that the Government has consistently underfunded the National Cancer Strategy. Some cancer services are now struggling more than before the strategy was published in July 2017."

In response, the HSE said risk assessment, genetic counselling and testing for patients with a possible cancer predisposition gene are provided in St James's Hospital and the Department of Clinical Genetics in Crumlin Hospital.

"Our most recent waiting time data from Crumlin showed 548 patients were waiting for a first appointment, relating to cancer genetics, 458 had been waiting over three months and 125 people had been waiting over 12 months," a spokeswoman said.

She said for those considering genetic testing for their family history, there were counsellors based across the two cancer-genetics services.

These counsellors have expertise in assessing the likelihood of that person carrying a cancer-predisposing gene.

"They also speak to patients before and after testing about the implications of genetic testing and the subsequent results," she said.

"Three genetic counsellors have been appointed to the St James's Hospital service in recent years and further recruitment is ongoing."

Two genetics counsellors with a special interest in cancer genetics are based in the Crumlin.

"While there has been significant investment in the service the demand for genetic assessment and testing had been growing rapidly," the spokeswoman added.

Irish Independent

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