Westray outreach service


Clan Cancer Support is launching an outreach service in Westray, following research linking a cancer gene to the remote Orkney Isle.

Leading geneticists from the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh have linked a variant in the gene BRCA1 to a historic origin in Westray.

They estimate one in 100 people with grandparents from Orkney carry the gene which causes a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

In preparation for a wider national program, a pilot is being set up to offer a saliva test for the variant to those living in Westray with a Westray-born grandparent.

The NHS Grampian genetics team currently only offer tests to people with family history of breast and or ovarian cancer and are recording interest to make testing available as soon as possible.

Clan Cancer Support has had a presence in Kirkwall for almost 15 years but given the significance of this medical finding will now operate an additional monthly drop-in service at the Hofn Youth Centre in Westray.

Kay Johnston, Clan Cancer Support’s head of cancer support services said: “This research has unsettled many people across Orkney, with many worried about what it means for them and their family.

“Our new monthly drop-in support service will offer emotional and practical support to anyone concerned, including those who have tested positive for the gene and those who are worried about a loved one who has been affected.

“It is important to note that carrying the BRCA1 gene variant does not mean you will develop cancer and we’d encourage those looking for medical advice to contact the NHS Grampian genetics clinic in the first instance.”

Clan will be at the Hofn Youth Centre in Westray from from 9.30am - 2pm on Tuesday April 25 and thereafter on the last Thursday of each month) operating a drop-in service, no appointments are necessary.

Clan will continue to support any Orcadians affected by a cancer diagnosis from its Kirkwall base and the Haven in Aberdeen which offers home-from-home accommodation and support services to people travelling to the city for medical appointments.

NHS Grampian genetics clinic is running a helpline for queries about the gene variant linked to breast and ovarian cancer for those who have grandparents from Orkney. The number to call is 01224 553940.

Email enquiries can be directed to GPs will not be able to assist with gene testing and any questions about this research and next steps should be directed to the helpline.

A series of FAQs and a short video explainer which outlines the findings of the research is available to the public. It can be found on NHS Grampian’s website:

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