Case study: BRCA2 gene test revealed 'I had an 85-90% risk of getting breast cancer'


Jane Netherton, 58, lives in Plymouth, Devon. Like Angelina Jolie, she underwent a double mastectomy to lower the risk of getting breast cancer.

“My grandmother and mother both had breast cancer, and when my sister was diagnosed seven years ago when she was in her early 40s it was found that she had the faulty gene.

“I decided to undergo genetic testing, but I knew it was a foregone conclusion. I had the BRCA2 gene, and I had an 85-90 per cent risk of getting breast cancer, as well as a high chance of getting ovarian cancer. With a family history like mine, I’d have been extremely lucky not to have it.

“You’re given a counsellor to take you through your options, but I told them straight away I wanted the operation. There was no decision to make. I had only just got married, I had a new family, and I didn’t want to risk getting breast cancer. I wanted to be here for my grandchildren, without living under the shadow of knowing I would get breast cancer.

“In 2007, I had my ovaries removed and a double mastectomy. I can imagine that for many women it isn’t an easy decision – it can be incredibly scary – but my advice would be to have it done.  My husband has been brilliant in helping me through the experience.”

Charlotte Maison, 33, lives in Leighton Buzzard. Despite no family history of breast cancer, she discovered that she had the BRCA2 gene.

"Two years ago, only months after the birth of my daughter Lucy, I found out that I had breast cancer. As soon as I was diagnosed, I wanted to have a double mastectomy but my surgeon wouldn't do it, and I had a mastectomy on one breast.

"There was no family history of breast cancer at all, but I really wanted the gene testing to find out why I had breast cancer and to protect my daughter. On finding out I had the BRCA2 gene, I was worried about the cancer coming back and wanted to minimise the risk and had the second breast removed earlier this year. When there are children involved, the decision becomes easier because you want to see them grow up.

"I was adamant I wouldn't have reconstructive surgery, but I'm glad I went against my first instinct. I've had tissue expanders put in before I get permanent implants, and they've helped me feel normal again.

"What some people might find even harder than the mastectomy operation is having your ovaries removed, especially when you're young. But you can have eggs frozen, so you don't necessarily have to close that door."

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