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Open Access Open Badges Commentary

Advocate's Viewpoint on Hereditary Breast/Ovarian Cancer

Francisca Bach Kolling-Dandrieu

Author Affiliations

The Working Party on hereditary breast ovarian cancer of the Dutch Breast Cancer Patient Organisation

Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice 2004, 2:199-202  doi:10.1186/1897-4287-2-4-199

Published: 15 August 2004


This paper discusses the presentation I held at the symposium on genetics during the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference held in Hamburg in March 2004.

Primarily, the goals and working methods of the advocacy group specialised in Hereditary Breast/Ovarian Cancer of the Dutch Breast Cancer Patient Organisation known as BorstkankerVereniging Nederland (BVN) are explained. Furthermore, some specific individual problems that mutation carriers might encounter before and after BRCA1/2 susceptibility testing are discussed. These include: dilemmas in choosing preventive interventions, dealing with the psychological impact of knowing you are a mutation carrier, dealing with the social implications of being genetically at risk, an example of insurance discrimination. In addition, some controversial social and ethical issues that are currently under debate are highlighted, such as the issue of the European patenting of the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Since this topic could also become relevant for other gene-related diseases, society as a whole has to consider the ethical and social implications related to the patenting of human genes in general. Another ethical area of debate is the controversial issue of prenatal BRCA testing and the choice of pregnancy termination.

Finally, the Working Party pleads for the international co-operation and exchange of data and experience among professionals as well as patients. It appears that professionals in different European countries tend to advise on different risk management strategies and treatments and as such, the Working Party strongly advocates the international standardisation of risk management and treatment of mutation carriers. In this respect, specific attention should be given to a group that has had a non-informative or negative BRCA test result, because this group is still considered to be at high risk to develop the disease.

patients' viewpoint; working party on hereditary breast/ovarian cancer; dilemmas of mutation carriers; preventive surgery; BRCA1 and BRCA2; Dutch Breast Cancer Patient Organisation; genetic discrimination; ethics of genetics; patening human genes