Lifestyle Health

Saturday 20 January 2018

Gene-risk women are 'timebomb' for cancer

Health Minister Mary Harney (left) with cancer survivor Norma Mulcahy at the launch of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2010 at The Irish Cancer Society in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Health Minister Mary Harney (left) with cancer survivor Norma Mulcahy at the launch of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2010 at The Irish Cancer Society in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Women who have genes that leave them at a very high risk of developing breast cancer were described as "timebombs" by a leading cancer surgeon yesterday.

Surgeon James Geraghty of St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin said it was essential that special care plans be made available to these women to allow them to easily avail of breast cancer screening and possible radical surgery.

Survival

Speaking at the launch of Breast Cancer Awareness Month he said that, overall, the 2,600 women diagnosed annually with the disease now have an increased chance of survival thanks to various factors including the quality of care in the eight specialist hospitals and advanced drug treatments.

However, a very small number of younger women, who have a strong family history of the disease, and find they have one or more breast cancer genes, need to be looked after, he said.

They have a 56-84pc chance of going on to develop breast cancer in their lifetime and also a risk of getting ovarian cancer.

An expert group has prepared a report with recommendations on their care which is with the Health Service Executive, he said.

Women with the defective gene can reduce their risk of developing the cancer by 98pc by having a double mastectomy, he added.

Around 300 women diagnosed annually with breast cancer here have a family history of the disease or a genetic component.

Meanwhile, at the end of last year, 98pc of women with urgent symptoms of the disease were seen in one of the eight designated hospitals within two weeks -- and all had their cases discussed by a range of specialists.

Dr Patricia Fitzpatrick of the School of Public Health in UCD predicted that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer would continue to increase and go beyond the current level of 80pc.

The best survival rates are in the 45-64 year age and more women are diagnosed early, she added.

Irish Independent

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