Bruce Hopper clocks up 20 years as geneticist for Taree Community Health

It was 1994 when the specific gene for breast cancer was identified.

Four years later, in January 1998, the Lower Mid-North Coast’s first full-time genetic counsellor started. At the time, when a referral was received for a disease such as breast cancer, only limited testing was available.

Now, 20 years later, multiple tests are available for breast cancer genes.

Lower Mid-North Coast genetic counsellor, Bruce Hopper was the first person appointed to the position. Twenty years later his passion for genetics and the ongoing advancements continues.

“It’s hard to comprehend just how far the genetics field has come over the past 20 years,” Mr Hopper said.

“In comparison to today what we could offer 20 years ago was quite limited, however the continued advocacy for research, such as ‘Jeans for Genes’ day, paved the way for what we can offer today and the continuing advances we’ll see into the future,” he said.

Watch Bruce talk about what has changed over the 20 years and what he expects for the next 20:

A number of exciting advances in recent years has been the improvements in screening for the ‘BrCa’ gene (mutation of the gene can indicate a women’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer), the availability of cardiac genetic testing, and whole genome sequencing (determining a complete DNA sequence at a single time).

“The advancements we have seen in genetic testing have been invaluable for our local families, particularly those who have a strong family history of a particular condition or disease,” Mr Hopper said.

“Now, as I see families for many years I can create detailed family trees, testing each generation for specific gene variants.

“Compared to 20 years ago the information and guidance we can provide families is much more detailed,” he said.

With his enthusiasm and passion for genetics at an all-time high, the lower Mid-North Coast community can expect to see Bruce Hopper providing education and counselling for many more years to come.