The HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme established a Hereditary Cancer Programme in 2012 in response to advances in diagnostics and an increasing demand for services. St. James’s Hospital and Crumlin Children’s Hospital provide risk assessment, genetic counselling and genetic testing services for patients with a possible cancer predisposition gene, including the BRCA gene.
The majority of referrals to this service are healthy individuals concerned about their genetic predisposition to cancer. Those who are tested and found to carry a gene mutation are offered strategies to reduce their risk. Depending on the type of cancer, this may involve surveillance, drug treatment, surgery, or a combination of these.
Due to increased doctor and patient awareness of the potential of cancer genetics, there has been an exponential growth in referrals in recent years. Approximately 1,800 new patients attend the ‘family risk’ clinics in St. James’s Hospital annually.
The number of people on the waiting list for the service in St. James’s Hospital as of 24 September was 191.