Natasha has Lynch Syndrome, a genetic mutation which is linked to an increased risk of a number of different cancers. She tells us about her own family history, and why knowing her genetic status has allowed her to feel more in control.
"The day I realised I had faulty genes which couldn't be returned...
Throughout my teenage life, I was exposed to cancer; my aunt Rachael was diagnosed with uterine cancer and sadly lost her battle, six months later, at the young age of 38.
Not long after, my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had to have his bowel removed, entering a new world where he had to use a colostomy bag. After his operation, the hospital asked if they could test him to see if he carried a genetic mutation called Lynch Syndrome. It turned out he did and it was then suggested that my sister, brother and I should also be tested.
As I have a fear of needles I put off having the test done. However, my sister decided to be tested and later found out she was a carrier.
As all three of us were under 30, further checks were not an option, so I decided to wait until I was 30 to do the genetic testing.
Not long after, my grandfather was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, which could have been connected to gastric cancer, (a likely result of Lynch Syndrome), but it was not confirmed and he sadly passed away within a year.
A few years later my 27-year-old sister developed an infection around her tummy button. The doctor thought she had a hernia so she was taken in for surgery. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be a hernia but skin cancer, which is now known to be part of the 'Lynch Syndrome family'. My sister put up a tough six-month fight but sadly passed away on the 11 August 2011.
"The thought of not knowing any longer while having two children who might be carriers was the impetus to get tested"Natasha Cantor
The thought about having the genetic testing done played on my mind. I knew I should do it but the thought of being tested positive put me off.
A year later I had a beautiful baby boy, and a year later, when I turned 30, I received a letter from Northwick Park hospital to have a colonoscopy as a routine check due to the high risk I had. The fact I did not know if I was a carrier or not made me think about it again and again but I put it to the back of my mind and carried on. My grandfather was then diagnosed with bowel cancer and passed away soon after. Then a year later my grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer.
I started to think again about the genetic testing but fell pregnant and had another beautiful boy. Then my aunt, who had previously had sarcomas and other cancers, was diagnosed with bowel cancer. This was the kick I needed. The thought of not knowing any longer while now having two children who might be carriers was the impetus to get tested.
I had the genetic testing and was told I had the mutation. It was initially upsetting but now I can say I am so lucky to know. The NHS have been, and will hopefully continue to be, a fantastic source of help and support.
I had a colonoscopy on the 11th August 2017 and then in December 2017 a hysteroscopy and a general ovary check. The colonoscopy will now be a regular 18-monthly test and I will continue to have annual gynaecological tests, until I decide whether to have a full hysterectomy around the age of 38.
To be regularly monitored and to take charge of my own body is a great feeling and I truly believe knowledge is power!"
Are you worried about your own family history of cancer? Our Hereditary Cancer Risk Tool is simple to use and will assess your risk of having inherited a genetic mutation that could increase your risk of developing certain cancers.