Three sisters take drastic step of having their breasts AND wombs removed to avoid hereditary cancer death sentence that killed their mother at just 32
Youngest sister, 30, will have womb removed like her siblings after she has tried for childrenThe sisters found they carried the deadly BRCA1 gene after Luan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005
These three sisters look a picture of health – but they have had to take drastic action to stay that way.
Luan Moreton, Kim Jones and Jemma Dennis lost their mother to breast cancer when she was only 32, and tests revealed that they had inherited the same faulty gene.
They decided to have preventive double mastectomies as an alternative to a lifetime of monitoring.
The two elder sisters have also had hysterectomies after doctors told them the faulty BRCA1 gene gave them a 50-60 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer.
(Left to right) Luan Moreton, Kim Jones and Jemma Dennis from Nuneaton: All have had double mastectomies
The youngest, 30-year-old Jemma, plans
to have the operation too, but not until she has tried for children with
husband Mark, 37, an architect.
Yesterday the trio urged other women to be screened for the gene and consider pre-emptive surgery before cancer strikes.
Mrs Moreton, 38, said: ‘We were all very close growing up after what
happened to Mum, but these operations have made us even closer.
‘I feel that we are lucky because we realised we all had the gene and took steps to prevent it from developing.
‘People need to know that there are things you can do to minimise the
risk. Mum must have had the gene but she was never tested for it.
‘It was too late for her – but we were able to do something about it.’
Family tragedy: Mother Rita with her daughter Luan in 1982 – Rita died from breast cancer four years later in 1986
She was 12, her sister Kim seven and Jemma just four when their mother Rita died in 1986.
In 2005 Mrs Moreton from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, discovered a lump in
her breast two weeks before she married husband Sean, a printer.
EXPLAINING THE BREAST CANCER GENES
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that belong to a class known as tumour suppressors.
In normal cells, BRCA1 and BRCA2 help ensure the stability of the cell’s DNA and help prevent uncontrolled cell growth.
However, women who inherit a mutated form of these genes are at far greater risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer at a young age.
Harmful BRCA1 mutations may also increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical, uterine, pancreatic, and colon cancer.
Harmful BRCA2 mutations may also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, gallbladder and bile duct cancer, and melanoma.
Men who carry the BRCA1 gene have a greater risk of breast cancer and possibly pancreatic and prostate cancer. However, this is more likely among men with the BRCA2 gene.
Source: National Cancer Institute, U.S
Tests showed she had breast cancer and later that month doctors carried
out a lumpectomy, which was followed by a six-month course of
chemotherapy and four weeks of radiotherapy.
The treatment was successful, but further examinations carried out when
she was pregnant with her son Nate, now four, revealed she was carrying
the faulty BRCA1 gene which gives an 85 per cent chance of developing
Her sisters took blood tests which showed that they, too, had the faulty gene.
Mrs Moreton said: ‘It was daunting but we agreed that we would all
rather have the operation than not be around in a few years’ time.’
Mrs Dennis was first to have the surgery in 2007. She said: ‘For me it wasn’t even a decision.
‘It wasn’t a case of “if” I got cancer, it was a case of “when”. I didn’t want to sit and wait for it to happen.
‘I knew I wanted to have a double mastectomy, and I wanted it done quickly so I couldn’t dwell on it.’
Mrs Moreton was next in 2008 and Miss Jones, 33, followed in 2009.
All recovered well, but were then told it was highly likely the faulty BRCA1 gene could go on to cause ovarian cancer.
They made the heart-wrenching decision to have hysterectomies, meaning they could no longer have children.
Mrs Moreton and Miss Jones, a mother of two who is engaged to graphic
designer Marc Sharman, 34, have already had their operations.
Kim, Jemma and Luan as children: All three have urged women with a family history of breast cancer to get checked for the aggressive BRCA1 gene
Mrs Dennis said: ‘I will definitely have it done, but I do not know when it will be.’
The IT worker added: ‘It does play on your mind quite a bit but I try
not to think about it too much. I want to have children first – they are
the priority for me now.’
A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said: ‘The BRCA1 gene is one gene
that can contribute to a breast cell becoming cancerous if it is
‘When a mutated BRCA1 gene is passed from parent to child, all the
breasts’ cells carry this mutation. They have a head start in the
process of collecting enough genetic mutations to enable them to become
Around 100,000 British women are believed to carry dangerous versions of the BRCA1 and related BRCA2 genes.
They can currently decide between a lifetime of regular monitoring or pre-emptive mastectomies.