Nursery worker, 23, with cancer gene has double mastectomy after disease killed mother and grandfather
Fiona Luscombe, from Plymouth, feared she would also succumb to BRCA2 gene which increases risk of cancer
'I grew up with cancer and I just couldn't risk it' she said
10:45 GMT, 29 November 2012
A healthy young woman decided to have her breasts removed because of a family history of cancer.
Fiona Luscombe, 23, chose to have a double mastectomy after both her mother and grandfather died following battles with breast cancer.
On discovering she was carrying the same hereditary gene, she made the heart-breaking decision to reduce the chances of developing the disease herself.
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No choice: Fiona Luscombe, 23, (pictured before her operation left) felt she had no option but to have the double mastectomy. She had both breasts removed and had the implants put in at the same time (pictured after surgery right)
Miss Luscombe, a nursery teacher,
told how she opted for the surgery after doctors discovered she was
carrying the gene – but said they would not know more until further
scans in seven years’ time.
She said: ‘I was devastated, totally gutted and it took a long time to get my head around it.
‘Even though I have the gene I wouldn’t be scanned until I was 30 and I couldn’t wait that long.
‘After I got the result I think I was traumatised but then I became really focused.’
She added: ‘I’ve grown up with cancer
really. I think it’s harder mentally than I thought it would be but I
couldn’t sit on it, I had to sort myself out.’
Miss Luscombe, who is engaged, was
only three years old when her mother Brenda was diagnosed with breast
cancer, from which she initially recovered. But it returned 13 years
later in her lymph nodes, liver and bones, and the former classroom
assistant died of liver cancer in 2007 at the age of 48.
Memories: Fiona Luscombe's painful experiences watching her grandfather Frank Ross, pictured, and mother Brenda suffer cancer influenced her decision to have both breasts removed
Tragedy: Fiona Luscombe's mother Brenda battled breast cancer which later spread to her lymph nodes, liver and bones. She died aged 48
Yesterday Miss Luscombe, from
Plymouth, said: ‘I didn’t understand the full extent of it when I was
younger but when it came back Mum was given six months to live and that
was true to the day.
‘She was very organised. She arranged
her own funeral, and she helped us to get through it. Her dad had
breast cancer as well. Mum had it when she was 32 years old. I’m 23. I
just couldn’t risk it.’ Miss Luscombe discovered she was carrying the
BRCA2 gene in October last year – a year after her 26-year-old sister
Jenny, who has returned from working in Spain to help care for her
sibling, had been told she was not a carrier.
Rather than wait until she might be
diagnosed later in life, she said there was ‘never any doubt in her
mind’ about having both breasts removed as a precaution.
The operation was carried out at St
Michael’s Hospital in Hayle, Cornwall, nine weeks ago. She said: ‘It
went really well but it was really daunting. Both breasts were removed
at the same time. They removed all of the tissue and put the implants
Devastated: Fiona, pictured on holiday in 2009, says the operation had tested her relationship with her finace
She said she had already spoken to her fianc Chris Warn, a window cleaner, about the operation before she took the test.
She said: ‘He was around when my mum died as well and so he knew about my family. He was very supportive.’
Her father, Malcolm Luscombe, 63, retired from his fire officer job when Brenda was diagnosed.
He said: ‘I think the hereditary
problem goes back beyond her grandfather. It was a shock when he was
diagnosed and just goes to show men can get it too.
‘It was big decision for Fiona to
have this operation – a big step. I’m proud of her for being brave
enough to go through with it.’
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that have been shown to play a role in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
Those with a strong family history
of some cancers are invited to have more regular screening than people
who don’t seem at increased risk.
Scared: Former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton has recently revealed her experience having a double mastectomy after also being told she has the BRCA2 gene
Supportive: Fiona Luscombe's fiance Chris Warn has backed her decision to have a double mastectomy
VIDEO: Treatment options for BRCA positive women:
BRCA 2: THE FAULTY GENE WHICH INCREASES CANCER RISK
A cell needs to have a number of mistakes in its genetic code before it becomes cancerous.
Doctors call these mistakes faults or mutations. Most of these gene mutations develop during our lifetime.
can occur due to substances people come into contact with that cause
cancer. Or they can happen because of mistakes that cells make when
copying their genetic code before dividing into two new cells.
of these abnormal cells die or are killed off by the immune system. It
usually takes many years to gather enough genetic mistakes, so this is
one of the reasons that cancer is generally more common as people get
But it is possible to
be born with a gene fault that may increase the risk of cancer. This
doesn't mean you will definitely get cancer.
But it means that you are more likely to develop cancer than the average person.
Scientists have identified a number of these so-called 'cancer genes'.
first genes to be found were BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 – women with these genes
have a 50 to 80 per cent chance of getting breast cancer in their
Only people with a strong family history of breast cancer can be tested for the gene.
who test positive can either have regular breast screenings, take a
prevention drug which will reduces the risk or have surgery to remove
their breasts (and possibly ovaries).
Source: Cancer Research UK