Hundreds of women face agonising wait after gene test blunder

Hundreds of women who were given the all-clear for a gene that could increase their chances of cancer face an agonising wait to find out if they got the right result.

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, where the national centre for genetic testing is based, has been forced to do a lookback from 2006 on 335 women who tested positive for the BRCA gene.

The investigation will try to track whether the positive result from the laboratory was passed on correctly to the women by staff at the centre.

It follows the tragic case of a woman who is now seriously ill with ovarian cancer. She had a test for the BRCA1 gene in 2009, and although it was reported correctly by a laboratory in the UK, it was wrongly said to be negative by staff at the centre in Dublin.

She was recently diagnosed with cancer and is now demanding a wider inquiry into standards at the centre.

Her solicitor, Caoimhe Haughey, said the hospital’s description of the blunder as a transcription error is “galling”. She said: “It is not a transcription nor an administrative error, it is an error of grave, serious clinical proportions. This lady wants to urge other women who have undergone genetic testing at the hospital over the last 10 years to demand a review,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said it is doing a lookback and prioritising the 335 test results which came back positive for the BRCA gene from the lab.

It will see if it was communicated on correctly to the woman’s doctor.

The hospital will then review cases where a woman got a negative result from the laboratory. When a BRCA test result is received back to the centre from a lab, it is examined by a doctor.

The woman’s patient chart is reviewed and it is sent to her referring clinician. A helpline was set up yesterday but it was only manned by administrative staff. The spokeswoman said the calls were reviewed by a doctor.

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