A number of Fife women are undergoing gruelling chemotherapy treatment that is of no benefit to them because the region’s health board does not offer a simple test.
The genetic test, called Oncotype DX, which can accurately predict the chances of a cancerous tumour returning after surgery, is available in every NHS area in Britain apart from three – Fife, Tayside and Dumfries and Galloway.
Leading cancer charities have raised concern over some women being denied access to the test, which can help many patients to avoid unnecessary and expensive chemotherapy.
Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK, said: “The Oncotype DX test has been approved for use by NHS Scotland in women with breast cancer in certain situations to better select patients for chemotherapy.
“It is important that patients who could benefit have access to the test, helping to avoid treating those whose risk of recurrence is low and so sparing them potential side-effects of treatment.”
In March the government gave a firm commitment to make the test available for all women.
A recent Scottish Government publication, ‘Beating Cancer - Ambition and Action’ estimated that the Oncotype DX test could help around a quarter of women affected by the disease to avoid unnecessary chemotherapy treatment, saving health boards money in the processs.
At the time of going to press no comment was forthcoming from NHS Fife on why it is not currently available.