• About Gwyneth
• About BRCA Positive
I am a retired doctor living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. I qualified from Queens’ University Belfast in 1986 and worked as a general practitioner in Dromara and a forensic medical officer before taking up a post as a clinician in the Breast Surgery Unit in the Belfast City Hospital in 2004.
I always had a passion for surgery and over the next number of years was trained in breast surgery by consultant surgeon, Miss Sigi Refsum. I worked as a consultant breast surgeon for over 4 years and enjoyed seeing women from their first attendance at a breast clinic, through their investigations and surgery.
The breast unit had a large Family History clinic providing risk assessment and enhanced screening for over 2000 women with a family history of breast cancer. There were increasing numbers of women having predictive genetic testing and shown to carry the BRCA mutations. At this stage there was no MRI breast screening programme available and the women attended the family history clinic. About 8 years ago I attended a conference for women with BRCA mutations that had been organized by Dr. Jennifer Quinn, a researcher at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, (CCRCB) and I meet Hazel Carson who had just set up a support group for carriers in Northern Ireland, BRCA NI Link.
Hazel was concerned about the lack of information available for women with BRCA mutations who were considering risk –reducing surgery and this led to the BRCA Clinic being set up by Dr. Ian Harley, consultant gynaecologist and myself.
We were able to offer joint appointments to women who had genetic testing and provide support and guidance regarding the timing of risk reducing breast and ovarian surgery. The clinic provided on-going follow-up and ensured that women received adequate hormone replacement therapy and we developed a holistic approach to their care.
We published the BRCA Handbook with information for women and their families and are grateful to the Royal Marsden Hospital, London who gave permission to use their “Beginners Guide to BRCA” as our starting point. This website is a natural progression, and allows information to be updated and available to more women.
In July 2016 I attended summer school at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda just north of Washington D.C. This four-week course looked at the principles and practices of cancer prevention, and I gained useful insights into the challenges of supporting behaviour change towards healthier lifestyle choices.
On a personal level, when I turned 50 and menopausal I was aware that I was becoming overweight, unfit, stressed and needed to make significant changes to the way I lived my life. I started walking, improved my fitness and lost weight. After walking more than 1000 miles in 2016 with my buddy, Karen Martin, I completed the 66mile walk around the Isle of Wright in just under 27 hours in April 2017.
Within the past 12 months I have trained as a Pilates teacher and completed the Health Coach Institute health coaching programme, accredited by the International Coach Federation and recognized by the Federation of Holistic Therapists UK. I have over 50 hours of lifestyle coaching practice and continue to develop my coaching skills and provide health coaching with a focus on cancer prevention and survivorship.
About BRCA Positive
There are many women throughout Ireland and the UK who are carriers of the BRCA mutations and have set up support groups to allow women to come together and support each other. I hope that this website will be a point of reference for them and the Facebook page will allow me to provide additional information on issues related to BRCA.
BRCA Positive is not a charity, this website has been written and financed by me.
In America, FORCE is the only non-profit making organization devoted to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. I attended their conference in Orlando, 2017 and learnt more about their peer navigation program. I enjoyed meeting Sue Friedman, executive director and founder of FORCE, and was encouraged to take this work forward in the UK and Ireland.
Woman shown to carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation prior to the diagnosis of cancer are known as previvors. As previvors they have the opportunity to make choices about cancer screening and preventive measures to reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer in later life.
With my experience as a doctor, I can offer support in helping women navigate through the decision process by bringing clarity, a greater focus and awareness of the choices they have.
As a health coach I can give guidance regarding a healthy lifestyle including balanced diet and exercise to help reduce the risk of cancer and of complications following surgery and optimize outcomes.
I cannot provide individual coaching free of charge but offer coaching person-to-person, over skype or by telephone. If you would like more information please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org