MORE women will be able to be tested to see if they have a gene that puts them at greater risk of developing breast cancer, the Health Secretary has said.
Alex Neil urged anyone who was concerned their family history puts them at risk of the disease to contact their doctor.
He added that he hoped Hollywood star Angelina Jolie speaking out about her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy would spur women on to seek medical advice.
Jolie, 37, revealed last week that she had the surgery after being told by doctors she had an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer.
Currently, women in Scotland can undergo genetic testing if doctors believe they have a 20 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.
However, this will be reduced so that those with a 10 per cent risk of the disease can be tested for the BRCA gene.
Mr Neil said it had been agreed in April to extend the testing in line with the new NICE guidelines south of the border.
He added the extended testing would be “fully implemented” by the start of next month.
Mr Neil said: “Anyone who is concerned they may be at risk because of their family history should seek advice via their GP who can, if appropriate, refer on to the cancer genetics service.
“The earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and the better the chance of a successful outcome, and we hope that Ms Jolie’s story will encourage anyone with a family history of cancer to seek advice from the medical profession.”
Jolie, whose mother had cancer and died at the age of 56, said she had written about her decision to have a double mastectomy in the hope that other women could benefit from her experience.
The Tomb Raider actress wrote in The New York Times: “I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”
The decision to extend testing in Scotland was supported by the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, whose Scotland director James Jopling said: “We welcome the fact Scotland is mirroring the draft NICE recommendation to extend tests to more women at risk of having the BRCA gene.
“It is worth remembering the gene fault is rare and is present in less than one per cent of the population, usually where there are multiple members of the family affected by breast or ovarian cancer at a younger age than would usually be expected.
“If women have any concerns about having a family history of breast cancer, we advise they should contact their GP for guidance.”