Record numbers to attend the Marie Keating Foundation’s 4th Annual BRCA Conference

The Marie Keating Foundation’s 4th Annual BRCA Conference has registered record numbers with more than 150 men and women affected by the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutation signing up to attend.

Taking place on the 23rd April at 10am, the free webinar provides those affected by a BRCA gene mutation access to information and resources from experts in the field, while also giving participants the opportunity to ask questions through a panel Q&A and dedicated breakout room sessions.

Supported by MSD and Astra Zeneca, the half day webinar includes contributions from Genetic Counsellors Eoin Hanney and Jessica Kavanagh, the National Cancer Control Programme’s Assistant Director of Nursing Pauline Robinson and many others from the fields of fertility, BRCA research and the patient experience.

These experts will share insights on a wide range of topics including BRCA services in Ireland, genetic counselling and the psychological impact of a BRCA gene mutation. Also included in the day’s events is the opportunity to delve into more niche and personal topics related to a BRCA experience, such as fertility, communication with family and menopause, through individual breakout room sessions.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like so many other areas of our health system, BRCA services have been disrupted with testing, referrals and counselling curtailed, postponed, or cancelled. After many years of underinvestment and under-resourcing, genetic services in Ireland are lagging behind recent improvements in cancer care and this needs to be urgently addressed. To help support those waiting for testing or counselling or for those coming to terms with a positive BRCA mutation, the Marie Keating Foundation expanded its BRCA services during the pandemic to include a regular online BRCA support group which meets online every 4-6 weeks. This group has grown by 240% since it was established, with more men and women signing up to avail of support. The Foundation’s peer to peer support service continues to be accessed regularly with 38 enquiries for support or information in 2020.

Director of Nursing Services, Helen Forristal says “the last twelve months have been especially challenging for those beginning or currently navigating a BRCA journey. The demand for our own BRCA services has grown exponentially and this is reflected in the numbers signing up for this year’s webinar titled ‘Reaching Out & Supporting You’. Now, more than ever collectively we need to provide further education and awareness about genetic mutations, for health care professionals, for the public and for patients who find themselves in this space. We need to address the delays for some people getting genetic testing and the cost implications if one does not have private health insurance. We are delighted to be able to once again provide this much needed outlet for those affected by a BRCA gene mutation in a way that ensures everyone who attends is safe, and comfortable and receives the information they need, while connecting with others in a similar situation.”

Often referred to as the Angelina Jolie gene, the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes increase a woman’s chance of getting certain cancers including breast and ovarian and a man’s chance of getting other cancers such as prostate cancer. The discovery of this gene can be an extremely difficult time for those tested and their families as they make plans and decisions on how to proceed.

PHD Student and BRCA Peer to Peer supporter Niki Warner shares the psychological impact this kind of diagnosis has on those that test positive. “I am delighted to be involved with the Marie Keating Foundation’s fourth annual BRCA conference – I think it’s so important that individuals impacted by a hereditary cancer condition like BRCA have access to reliable and up to date information when making decisions around managing their health. I think the further focus on psychological issues is also welcomed, as this is often an overlooked problem faced by this population.”

A full agenda of the days events as well as list of presenters is available at the Marie Keating Foundation website. Registration for this event closes on the 19th April but limited spaces are still available.  Visit www.mariekeating.ie/events to register or email ahollingsworth@mariekeating.ie

You can also engage with the Foundation’s free BRCA peer to peer support services by visit their website at www.mariekeating.ie/brcasupport

This year’s online BRCA Conference is kindly supported by MSD and Astra Zeneca.

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