The NHS is missing the opportunity to test cancer patients for the BRCA gene mutation as a prevention strategy, according to a leading charity.
A report published by Ovarian Cancer Action revealed that 29 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer had not been offered testing for the faulty gene by the NHS.
Around 15 per cent of cases of ovarian cancer are linked to BRCA. According to the charity this equates to more than 1,000 women a year whose lives could potentially be saved.
Jewish charities said the report’s findings were especially important as Ashkenazim are at higher risk of carrying the gene mutation than wider society.
BRCA carriers have an increased risk of ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers and one in 40 Jews carry the mutation compared to one in 800 in the general population.
Lisa Steele, chief executive of Chai, said testing was important because “although not everyone who tests positive will get cancer, various options are now offered to reduce the risk.”
The report also highlighted the lack of genetic counselling for people being tested for the gene.
It found 33 per cent of people received no counselling before making a decision on genetic testing and that 42 per cent received no counselling after their genetic test.
Ms Steele said this was “an area that has been a long-standing concern for us at Chai, regarding the lack of appropriate and sufficient genetic counselling.
“It is important that people are aware there is genetic testing available.”
Katherine Taylor, chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “Every eligible woman who has been denied testing and goes on to develop ovarian cancer represents a cancer prevention failure.
“Treatment for ovarian cancer lags behind other, better-known cancers and survival rates remain low.
“BRCA testing is one of our strongest weapons in the fight against this disease.”
Jnetics, which provides education and screening opportunities for the Jewish community, said it was in complete agreement with Ms Taylor.
Katrina Sarig, executive director for Jnetics said: “It is important for men and women to have access to genetic testing and that they receive support in making the right decisions for themselves and their families.”