Just like most of you yesterday we woke to the news that Angelina Jolie has a preventative double mastectomy, following the news that she carries the BRCA1 gene and had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer.
Firstly I would like to commend her on sharing her story with the world and I am amazed that she managed to keep private for so long.
Raising awareness about BRCA has been very difficult you only have to ask Wendy Watson the founder of the Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline the struggles she went through to prove their was a family link and to go to become the first person in the UK to have a preventative double mastectomy and to set up the fantastic charity to help others in her position.
So what does all this news about mean?
Well is means that by sharing her story it shows the world that cancer can affect anyone, rich, poor, black, white, ANYONE!
The Breast Cancer Facts:
Most women with breast cancer do not have BRCA mutations and do not need to be tested for them, doctors say. But for women who have breast cancer and do have mutations, knowing their status can help them make further treatment decisions, such as whether to have an unaffected breast or their ovaries removed.
My mum discovered she had breast cancer at 48 and as many of you know she is the inspiration behind Pink Ribbon Lingerie.
She is also from Jewish decent which means she had 2.3% chance of being a BRCA Carrier, the exact numbers are not known, but the best estimate is that about 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women (about 2.3%) carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene fault. Again, we don’t know the exact incidence for the general population of women. But about 1 in 800 women carry a BRCA1 mutation and 1 in 1,000 carry a BRCA2 gene fault. This means that overall; about 1 in 450 women in the general population have either BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene faults. So these faulty genes are likely to be about 10 times as common in Ashkenazi Jewish women.
So when as a family we were made aware the link within the Jewish community she spoke to her doctor who knew nothing about it! (YES you read correctly) the doctor had no idea about it!
The great thing is she has a great doctor who got in touch with the local hospital genetics team who asked her a series of questions before inviting her down to be screened. After having some counselling about the possible outcomes she was tested and 4 weeks later she got the results. While mum doesn’t carry the gene I am so proud of her having the courage to get tested.
I encourage ladies and men who have a family history of Breast Cancer and or Ovarian Cancer to take matters into their own hands. Don’t wait to Cancer strikes again. If you think you may have a genetic link in your family then contact the hereditary breast cancer helpline who can answer your questions or contact your doctor.
Cancer Research UK provides the following information:
Women who should consider asking a doctor about testing are those who have breast cancer before age 50; those who have a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer; or those who have many close relatives with breast cancer, especially if it developed when they were young. Any woman with ovarian cancer should consider being tested, as should Jewish women with breast or ovarian cancer. Men with breast cancer and their family members should also inquire about the possibility of a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Remember that most breast cancers happen by chance. Only about 5 out of every hundred are related to a known inherited breast cancer gene. The older you or your relatives are when diagnosed, the less likely it is that an inherited gene is the direct cause.
For more information about BRCA genes: