Working to raise awareness of hereditary breast cancer

Louise Hutton. Photo by Georgina Piper.  SUS-171121-132249001
Louise Hutton. Photo by Georgina Piper. SUS-171121-132249001

A Bexhill woman who had a double mastectomy has posed for a charity photoshoot to raise awareness of hereditary breast cancer.

Louise Hutton, now 29, had the operation in February 2014 aged just 26. Like Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, she had both healthy breasts removed and reconstructed because of the severe risk she had of developing hereditary breast cancer.

Louise said: “Growing up I had always known that my grandmother had died from ovarian cancer aged 44, when my mother was just nine years old. Knowing that she had a strong family history, my mother was referred to a genetics clinic in 2004. However, they were unable to arrange a genetic mutation test at the time because she had no live affected relatives.

“Four years later, in 2008, my mother was diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal breast cancer. Following this cancer diagnosis she was then able to have genetic testing which proved that she had a faulty BRCA1 gene.

“This opened the door for me and my brother to be tested, which we did so later that year, shortly after my 21st birthday. I found out that I had the same BRCA1 genetic mutation as my mother and thankfully my brother was found to be clear.

“Although I found out I had the faulty BRCA1 gene when I was 21, I waited until I was 24 to start my surgical journey, when I was nearly qualified in my job, and I wanted to get my surgery and reconstruction out of the way before I met anyone and settled down.

“My journey since then has not been an easy one. In January 2013, aged 24, I had stage one of the operation which was a breast reduction.

“This all went well and in February 2014 I then went on to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction in an operation that lasted 12 hours. Unfortunately one of my reconstructed breasts was not successful and in total, I have now had six surgeries. I’m lucky enough to be in a good place now, with my reconstruction complete, and I’m happy to share my experiences with others.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing.

“In early summer 2017, just one week after my final hospital appointment, I was flown to Austria to be part of a campaign by the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline (NHBCH). Along with 11 other women I took part in a photoshoot with the aim to #makeonepersonaware about the risks and statistics around hereditary cancer and what you can do about it if you are at an increased risk.

“But even more importantly, I want to show other women who may be considering or recovering from an operation, that even if you are having a tough journey and your surgery does not go quite as planned, there are always other options available and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. I think it’s true to say in many ways, I feel stronger than I did before.”

The photoshoot is sponsored by Anita Care – designers of post-surgical lingerie and swimwear – which has teamed up with NHBCH to create a charity journal for women undertaking preventative breast surgery.

The journal will be used by the charity as a tool for newly-diagnosed women to record their own journeys as they make decisions about how to proceed with the news that they are carrying one of the faulty genes. It features 12 women who have all had or are going to have risk-reducing breast surgery because they are carriers of the faulty gene that leaves them with an 80 to 90 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.

Jemma Barnes, managing director of Anita UK, will be coming to The Waterfront in Bexhill to speak at Ashdown Hurrey’s Women in Business Lunch Club, in December.

For more information on hereditary breast cancer, visit http://www.breastcancergenetics.co.uk/.