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Laura Roberts: "I still find that most people are surprised I got the genetic mutation from my dad"

20 July 2017

Laura Roberts

Laura Roberts is 39 and has a BRCA1 mutation. She found out she was BRCA1+ about 14 years ago when she was tested for the gene at the Royal Marsden hospital in London.

"I never met my nan (my dad’s mum) as she had died from ovarian cancer at 54, 12 years before I was born. My aunt (my brother’s sister) then also passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 54. My dad died at the age of 55 from lung cancer and his last remaining sister died of breast cancer in 2003 around the age of 60.

It was a few months after that that her daughter, my cousin Julie rang to tell us that she had breast cancer at the age of 34. She had found the lump the day after her mum’s funeral. She told us she had been tested and had a genetic mutation and that we should all get tested too.

I immediately visited my GP and asked to be referred, as I knew I wanted to know straight away, and indeed found out I had inherited the mutation. My sister, on the other hand, did not want to know and only got tested about six years ago. She too has the gene. My cousin sadly died seven years later of secondary cancers.

When I found out about my genetic mutation I took it all in my stride. It was a 50/50 chance I’d inherited it from my dad but for some reason I was sure I had it so it came as no surprise. I'm the kind of person who likes to have all the facts, so I read everything I could, and as testing was in early stages, the hospital were amazing.

"I still find that most people are surprised I got the genetic mutation from my dad, including medical professionals"

Laura Roberts

Back then preventative surgery was not a very common route. As I was only 25 I was too young to have mammograms or MRIs yet. A few years on, preventative surgery was starting to be talked about but I wasn't ready for it. I didn't dwell on the facts as they were overwhelming and I had the frame of mind that with yearly mammograms and MRI that even if I got cancer, I would catch it early. As time went on I learned that we get different types of cancer and very aggressive ones and because of that, the time from one set of screening to the next could be too late for BRCA carriers.

I started down the route to preventative surgery, but along the line my partner was not ready for it so we delayed it. When we broke up in 2015 I immediately booked the surgery, and went ahead in November 2015, opting for immediate implant reconstruction. Unfortunately, I got an infection in my left side and had the implant removed in January 2016, an expander placed in July and the implant replaced in November.

All is good now: they don't match at all, and I don't love them like I did my old boobs but I'm much safer. As my 11 year old keeps reminding me, at least your percentage risk is lower, which at the end of the day is what it was all for.

I have an appointment in two weeks to discuss having my ovaries removed, a decision that I have put off but now that I'm in early menopause the decision has been made somewhat easier!

Two other cousins have had preventative mastectomies with my same surgeon, one with implant reconstruction and one using tissue from their abdomen.

I still find that most people are surprised I got the genetic mutation from my dad, including medical professionals, even though men are just as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as women are."