Singapore is a densely populated small island nation, with a multiethnic and multireligious population. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Singapore. The population is well educated and coupled with greater awareness, there is an increasing demand for genetic testing for hereditary cancer syndromes. In Singapore, the Singapore Cancer Action Network (SCAN) guidelines for referral for genetic testing serves as a guide for clinicians on appropriate referral. We examined the important factors in genetic counselling in such a diverse population, such as acknowledgement of psychosocial impact of BRCA1/2, cultural sensitivity and upskilling of healthcare professionals. Access to genetic services in Singapore is widely available, though the number of patients who undergo testing is lower due to need for out-of-pocket costs and lack of funding from government agencies and insurance companies. The delivery of clinical care and research accrual is performed concurrently in our centre. All patients undergo pre-test counselling before giving informed consent for germline genetic testing and post-test counselling for interpretation of test results. Patients who test positive for BRCA1/2 continue to be on follow up with the cancer genetics clinic for risk-management. Predictive testing is discussed and facilitated for all at-risk relatives. Challenges faced by cancer genetics professionals in Singapore include the high rate of variant of uncertain significance (VUS) and low predictive testing rates. We hold regular support group activities for patients to seek mutual support and to raise overall awareness of BRCA1/2. We believe our comprehensive cancer genetics service serves as a useful model for other Asian countries looking to set up their own unit. We continue to aspire to empower patients, family members and healthcare professionals with cancer genetics knowledge to improve personal and public health.
Keywords: Asia; BRCA1; BRCA2; Genetic testing; hereditary breast cancer.