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'Double mastectomy the only way' for brave Accrington mum
A MOTHER-of-two has told of her brave decision to have a preventative double mastectomy after finding out she carried the same faulty gene as actress Angelina Jolie.
Rachel White, 41, decided to have the surgery to reduce her chances of suffering with breast cancer in later life.
In 2009, both Rachel’s cousin and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer and the rest of the family were offered a genetic test to determine whether any carried the faulty BRCA1 gene.
Rachel and seven other members of her family, including her uncle, were all told they had inherited the fault and, at around the same time, Rachel’s best friend and sister-in-law were also diagnosed with the disease.
Rachel, who runs The Sewing Room in Accrington, said: “It was the most horrifying time of my life. It was like the whole family was drowning in breast cancer.”
The tests were carried out at the Nightingale Centre in Manchester, where medics were given a list of six women in Rachel’s family who had passed away, including her grandmother and great aunts.
The results showed that all six had died of ovarian cancer and it was deemed the worst case the centre had ever seen, Rachel said.
She added: “While we were waiting for the results, I’d always said that I would get a mastectomy.
“But when I realised that that was really what I would have to do, the decision just wasn’t that easy to make. I couldn’t do it.”
Rachel had her ovaries removed but delayed the mastectomy but found that she was constantly living in fear.
In July 2010, Rachel’s cousin, Rowena, tragically lost her battle with cancer aged 30 and Rachel said this was instrumental in her final decision.
She said: “I sat with my children and explained the gene mutation to them.
“My son looked at me and said ‘Are you going to die?’ and I said, ‘No. I’m not going to die. I’m going to make sure I don’t die.’” In May, Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after finding out she carried the fault.
Usually, a double mastectomy consists of having breast tissue removed completely and, if the patient requires an implant, having an ‘expander’ fitted. For three to six months, the expander is filled with fluid to stretch the skin for the implant. Rachel said she was unable to go through six months of treatment. She said: “I asked the consultant if I couldn’t have implants put in before the mastectomy to stretch the skin and then have the tissue removed at a later date. He agreed to do it that way for me.”
She added: “I was so pleased that Angelina spoke out. Before Angelina went public about her mastectomy, people would look at me like I was mad.”
Now, Rachel’s risk of contracting breast cancer has gone from 85 per cent to less than 10 per cent.
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