An overview: Sites on breast cancer and screening

Dr Keith Barnard recommends websites relating this week's Clinical Review

All aspects of breast screening are covered in this three-page document from cancerbackup. This fashion for not using upper case letters in proper nouns seems pointless to me, but there is nothing unfashionable about the way this site has a section specifically for health professionals.  

I didn’t know that the UK was the first EU country to introduce a national mammography programme — maybe with all the bad publicity we health service workers are constantly bombarded with, we should blow our own trumpet a little more.  

The article that the link takes you to deals with the mechanics of the screening programme, and then covers important areas that we should be aware of, such as screening intervals and radiation risks.  

The value of screening seems certain and it is estimated that by 2010 there could be a halving of breast cancer deaths compared with 1990.  

We are also reminded that over 90 per cent of breast cancers are found by women themselves, therefore encouraging breast awareness remains vital.  

Why go there: interesting and informative.  

Downside: none.  

Information from: cancerbackup  

Address: www.cancerback

BRCA1 and BRCA2  

We are all familiar what these terms now, but if you want to know more you can easily become drowned in gene mapping sites, complex molecular biology, or just too much information.  

This is a commercial site, but GPs are not going to be influenced by that. If you want a sensible, brief explanation of the role these genes play, you could do worse than visit this page.  

And if you click the ‘more’ link at the bottom, it will take you to a table that details the estimated cancer risk for patients carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.  

Why go there: answers in a nutshell.  

Downside: none.  

Information from: Myriad Laboratories.  


Li-Fraumeni syndrome  

I’d like to think I’m not alone in not knowing much about this rare but important familial type of breast cancer.  

Articles about it range from the long and extremely complex, to the oversimplified. This account is one of the best, and sums it up with all the relevant facts in straightforward language. It ends by reminding us that the Li-Fraumeni syndrome gene is not sex-linked, so it can be inherited from either side of the family.  

Why go there: good, brief coverage.  

Downside: Messy page to look at.  

Information from: University of Virginia  

Dr Barnard is a former GP in Fareham, Hampshire

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