Changing practice: moving to a specialist nurse-led service for BRCA gene testing

Br J Nurs. 2020 May 28;29(10):S6-S13. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2020.29.10.S6.


Some 5-10% of all breast cancers are associated with a pathogenic variant in a breast cancer-associated gene (BRCA1/BRCA2). Historically, with referral to the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust's clinical genetics department for genetic testing, waiting times were on average 12-14 weeks for an initial appointment and 4-6 months to obtain results from the date of testing. A specialist, nurse-led mainstreaming cancer genetics (MCG) service was set up in the trust's Nottingham Breast Institute (NBI) to: reduce waiting times for the initial consultation, counselling, consent and obtaining results for BRCA1/BRCA2 gene testing; and to ensure appropriate patients with breast cancer were offered genetic testing. Two breast clinical nurse specialists were trained so they could counsel, consent and give results for the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene testing directly to patients. Average waiting times for results from the time of testing were reduced to 35.8 days under the nurse-led service, which enabled oncologists and patients to consider individual treatment options at an earlier time. The MCG service reduced waiting times, resulting in an improved, more streamlined service for patients undergoing genetic testing. The MCG service extended the scope of practice of the breast nurse clinical specialists, embedded an expert advanced nursing role in the breast multidisciplinary team and developed nurse mentoring opportunities.

Keywords: BRCA; Breast cancer; Mainstreaming cancer genetics; Nurse-led clinical genetics; Triple negative cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • England
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Counseling / methods*
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Nurses' / organization & administration*