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Genetics and Breast Cancer

DNA Strand

All Wales Medical Genetics Service (AWMGS)

The ‘All Wales Medical Genetics Service (AWMGS)’ is one of a number of regional specialised medical genetics services that have been developed in the UK. It is accessible throughout Wales in designated hospitals and clinics.

Medical Genetics is a branch of medicine concerned with medical conditions that are caused by variations in genes or chromosomes. These sometimes run in families. Recently this field has seen rapid development, and our understanding of it continues to grow.

The AWMGS provides specialist genetic services to individuals and families with, or concerned about, rare genetic conditions. The service is made up of clinical and laboratory services which together provide medical genetics services to the population of Wales.

Cardiff and Vale UHB hosts the AWMGS at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff. Specialist consultant geneticists, doctors and genetic counsellors provide genetic services in all the main hospitals throughout Wales.

The Cancer Genetics service for Wales (CGSW)

The Cancer Genetics service for Wales (CGSW) is part of the All Wales Medical Genetics Service (AWMGS). It was established with funding from the National Assembly for Wales and Macmillan Cancer Relief in early 1999 to respond to the increasing demand for information and clinical care for women and men at risk of cancer because of a family history. Its remit is to assess the risk of cancer based on a patient's reported family history and work with the relevant specialists to recommend further screening strategies where appropriate.

5 - 10% of cancers of the breast, ovary and colon are due to an inherited predisposition. Individuals who meet the referral criteria and who may therefore be at a significantly increased risk of developing cancer can be referred to the CGSW. 

Our remit is to assess the risk of cancer based on the reported family history, to work with the relevant specialist clinicians and recommend screening strategies where appropriate. The referral criteria suggest who may be at a significantly increased risk of an inherited form of cancer.

More information including referral guidelines and information about what happens at an appointment can be found on the Wales Cancer Genetics website.


Referral Guidelines

Many people are concerned that they may have inherited a gene which may increase their risk of developing breast cancer. Most breast cancers are not genetic, but some are due to inherited genes, for example BRCA1, BRCA2 or Li Fraumeni Syndrome.

If you are concerned about your family history then your GP can refer you to the CGSW for their assessment of your risk.

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