ONLY one in five Irish women who are told they have the same faulty gene as Angelina Jolie opts for a double mastectomy, according to a Dublin specialist.
Dr David Gallagher, a cancer geneticist at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, said the remaining women who are told they have the BRCA-1 gene after a blood test opt for regular screening.
However women have to wait 18 months for the test to be carried out to determine whether they are carrying the gene. Private health insurers do not cover the cost of the test and it costs €1,400 to have it done privately.
"Both approaches are very effective in preventing women dying of cancer. If you are having screening you are still at risk of getting cancer and needing treatment – but it will be early, curable cancer.
"If you take the decision to have a mastectomy you reduce your risk of ever getting breast cancer by greater than 90pc," said Dr Gallagher.
It is very much a woman's decision whether she removes her breasts because of the screening alternative, but for those who risk ovarian cancer the advice is to remove her ovaries at a suitable stage of her life. Screening works for breast cancer but this option is not available for those at ovarian cancer risk.
Around .07pc of women carry these BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene which increases their lifetime risk of breast or ovarian cancer.
Dr Gallagher said it was important for women to realise that even if they have the faulty gene there is no guarantee they will develop cancer.
The National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700 provides information and support on breast cancer.