CALGARY- Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, and as a result some are taking dramatic steps to reduce their risk.
Four years ago, Stacie-Rae Weir lost her mother to ovarian cancer, caused by a genetic mutation. About five per cent of women with breast or ovarian cancer carry the BRCA-1 or 2 genes, but because Weir’s mother was a carrier, it meant Weir was also at risk.
She took a blood test which tested positive, giving her an 86 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.
Her first option was to watch, and wait.
“The idea there is to try and pick up any tumors at a very early stage, where we could treat it and hopefully take care of it before it becomes something that is more serious,” explains Dr. May Lynn Quan, a breast surgeon.
Weir decided not to test fate, and underwent a preventative double mastectomy.
“It was kind of a no brainer to me, especially after seeing my mom so sick and knowing I had the power to avoid that,” she says. “Feeling in control of my cancer risk gives me way more inner strength and peace then waiting to see if it had come for me, or waiting for it to come later in life.
“I’m really glad I took the preventative steps.”
Alberta Health covers the cost of preventative mastectomies and reconstruction for those with the genetic mutation.
It took three years, but Weir was finally able to undergo surgery just before Christmas. One month later, her risk of breast cancer has fallen to three per cent.
However, her risk of contracting ovarian cancer is 66 per cent, so she plans on also having her ovaries removed in a few years.
For more information about genetic testing and preventative mastectomies, watch the video below:
With files from Heather Yourex