Women who are undergoing tests to detect if they harbor a gene that puts them at increased risk of breast cancer are facing long waiting periods that increases stress levels, according to the charity CancerBACUP.
The charity says that sometimes the waiting period is as long as two years and makes the results of the tests immaterial. Two genes are known to put women at a higher risk of developing the dreaded cancer in the future. These genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, are found to be associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. Women usually test themselves to check if they harbor these genes. If the results are positive, some of them even take the extreme measure of going in for removal of both the breasts to avoid cancer.
But CancerBACUP says that in 11 percent of the cases women face a waiting period of up to nine months to get the appointment as well as test results. 32 percent face a waiting period of six months, while 26 percent face a delay of 12-24 months. These findings were arrived at after 19 laboratories responded to a questionnaire by Cancer BACUP. The UK Government has fixed a waiting period of eight weeks within which women are supposed to get their tests done. But Cancer BACUP says that this is a rare occurrence. 'It is vital that genetic testing centres offer the same standard of service throughout the UK. We would like to see all women being informed that testing 100% of their BRCA genes is now available for everyone, in order to give them the choice over whether they would like to be retested,' said Dr Andrea Pithers, CancerBACUP's genetic information project manager. It was found that only 50percent of the labs that responded were carrying out the full complement of tests required to test the mutations involved in the cancer gene. More often, labs just examine 60 percent of the gene and monitor only those areas where mutations are most likely to happen.'Although many of the centres say they will meet the government targets on this by 2006, our survey shows that some have a long way to go to achieve it,' Dr Pithers concluded.