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Breast cancer timebomb in family history

WOMEN who are genetically linked to contracting cancer were described as "timebombs" by a leading cancer surgeon.

Surgeon James Geraghty, of St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, said it was necessary for these women to avail of early breast cancer screening and the possibility of breast cancer surgery.

The 2,600 women who are diagnosed annually now have a much stronger success rate with the improvement in treatment -- including the quality of care in eight specialist hospitals and drug treatments, he said at the launch of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

But he urged for the quicker care of younger women who have a strong family history of the disease, with 300 women annually diagnosed with breast cancer every year who have a family history of the illness.

These women have a 56 to 84pc chance of developing ovarian cancer, he said.

"The key to this increase in survival rates is that Irish women are becoming more breast aware, are detecting changes to their breasts, seeking advice and treatment at a much earlier stage and availing of breast screening through the BreastCheck programme.

"This, coupled with diagnosis and treatment in the eight designated cancer care centres across the country, means a much more positive outlook for breast cancer patients," Mr Geraghty said. He also said that women with the defective gene can significantly reduce their risk of cancer by undergoing a double mastectomy.

Norma Mulcahy, a mother-of- three, from Cork, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and is spreading the word about her condition to other women to raise awareness.

She explained her shock at undergoing a routine examination with her GP when she was diagnosed -- and is calling for more emotional support throughout the process.

Norma now works directly with the Irish Cancer Society in order to counsel others.