I'm 15 And I Want My Breasts Removed

  1. [​IMG]
    Dilemma: Joanne Payne with mother Carol, who believes breast cancer is genetic

    When Carol Payne, 48, was diagnosed with breast cancer the news was devastating.


    But for her daughters Francesca, 28, and Joanne, 15, the ramifications were terrifying.

    For while Carol, who is divorced, refused to have a mastectomy because she felt it would ruin her femininity, schoolgirl Joanne wants to undergo radical preventative surgery. If she goes ahead she will be the youngest woman in the UK ever to take such a drastic step. Carol is horrified, but Joanne believes it could save her life.

    Carol from Eynsford, Kent, says: Like any teenage girl, Joanne loves shopping and clothes. But at the moment it brings tears to my eyes seeing her look so beautiful in the fashionable outfits she so enjoys wearing.

    In a bid to avoid contracting the breast cancer that has stalked three generations of our family, at the tender age of only 15 Joanne has chosen to have a double mastectomy, a potentially disfiguring operation which I cannot bear the thought of her having. To me, she is still a child.
    It has been a devastating year. Last June, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer. It was obviously terrible for me, but telling my two daughters the news was even worse because I knew that my diagnosis would have heart-wrenching and far-reaching consequences for them, too.

    My sister, mother and grandmother have all battled the disease since it is genetic in our family, so my daughters are also at high risk of developing breast cancer at some time in their lives.
    My eldest daughter, Francesca, coped by not talking about it. At 28 she feels it is something to be dealt with in the future. So, because Joanne is even younger, I expected her to feel the same way.
    But then two months ago she made the shocking announcement that she has decided to have her breasts removed and wants it done as soon as possible.
    It caught me totally unawares. Because she is so young and breast cancer is unlikely to affect her for years, it was the last thing I expected her to say.
    Ironically, a mastectomy was also the very operation I myself had recently turned down a day before I was due to go under the knife.
    As soon as I was told I had breast cancer, the consultant booked me in for a double mastectomy five days later, which he strongly recommended.
    But just beforehand, I decided I simply couldn't go through with it and cancelled the surgery. I just felt losing my breasts would make me feel less of a woman. Now, I have to face the fact that my beautiful daughter is actually asking to be put through that harrowing process.
    Perhaps she's decided that, seeing other people in the family fight breast cancer, she just does not want to take that risk.
    Our family nightmare began ten years ago when my mother, Sylvia, then 58, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a successful lumpectomy and radiotherapy and appeared to recover completely.
    Five years later, in 2001, my grandmother was diagnosed and finally a year later it struck my sister, Tracey. That was particularly shocking as she was only 37.
    Seeing my sister go through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy was heartbreaking. It had also spread to her lymph glands, which meant it had a greater chance of recurring.
    When I went back to see my GP, she was frank. "Everything points to this being a hereditary breast cancer," she said.
    She explained we carried one of two breast cancer genes, probably BRAC1 or BRAC2, although there are others. I felt sick at the implications.
    Not only was I suddenly catapulted into high risk territory, it had terrible implications for Francesca and Joanne because I feared I could have passed on the gene to them, and, as they grew older, they too may have to face breast cancer.
    It was a devastating blow, and something a parent never wants to contemplate. The dangers they both faced were brought home to me in the most terrible way, when I too was diagnosed last year.
    I nearly collapsed when the consultant told me I had cancer. His verdict was that I needed a radical double mastectomy straightaway. He said the cancer in my left breast was aggressive and I should have a double mastectomy as it would eventually spread to my other breast.
    I broke down in tears, sick to my stomach with fright. The first thought was the girls and how they'd manage with me ill, or if I died, especially with Joanne being so young.

    Telling my daughters I had cancer was simply dreadful.
    I could see their worst fears had been confirmed. They barely said a word, they were as stunned as I was, because, despite the family history, the reality was still such a shock.
    However, the more I thought about the mastectomy, the more uneasy I felt about going through with it. I had looked at my body and realised I didn't want such a major op.

    The thought of having my breasts cut off felt like a medieval mutilation. I felt strongly that I would lose all my femininity. Losing my breasts, even if they were reconstructed, would mean I would cease to be a proper woman.
    I'd always taken my 38B breasts for granted before, but now I looked at them in a new light. I had successfully breast-fed both my daughters and they were still in good shape. They were a part of me and I couldn't simply cut them off, even if they did have cancer in them.
    Besides, having a mastectomy is a huge operation with many risks. There is the risk from the general anaesthetic - and the surgery involved in a mastectomy is very invasive.
    The consultant explained that to get all the breast tissue would involve not only removing my breasts but taking out all the tissue behind my breasts too, much of it buried deep into my chest.
    With a day to go before the op, I rang my consultant. "I can't face it," I said. He tried to persuade me to have it done. He told me it would help stop the spread of the cancer and ensure all of it was removed.
    I faced a terrible dilemma but I simply couldn't have it done. I knew friends and family were quietly horrified at my decision.
    Everyone said it was my choice, but I could tell by the look people gave me they worried I was mad.

    Instead I opted for a lumpectomy, an operation I believed would be just as successful and that, importantly, would leave my breasts intact. I then began six months chemotherapy.
    I didn't tell Joanne about my dilemma at the time because I felt she had enough to cope with and I didn't want her to worry that I wasn't doing all I could to survive.

    My daughters were fantastic in caring for me while I suffered through the chemo, but we never spoke about the one thing that played on our minds. Had I given them a death sentence?
    Terrifyingly, doctors say that because so many family members have been struck by breast cancer, even if they can't identify the exact gene, my daughters face an extremely high risk of contracting it, too.
    I feel so guilty that I've possibly passed on some rogue gene to my daughters. When I talked about it to Francesca in the New Year and tried to work out what she might want to do, she just shuddered. "I'll worry about the possibility that I'll get cancer in a few more years," she said to me.
    But then, a few weeks ago, Joanne said something that made my blood run cold. Sitting at home, we began to discuss what the future might hold for her, and suddenly she said: "I'll do anything not to go through cancer."
    It was the first time she'd brought up the fact that she, too, could be affected. Yet while I can understand why she wants a mastectomy, I feel Joanne is far to young to consider it.
    At first I thought it might be a kneejerk reaction; after all, it's not surprising, after she saw what I went through, that she can't bear the thought of getting breast cancer.

    She says she can't live her life properly with the worry hanging over her that she too may succumb to this terrible disease. It was devastating to hear her talk like that because I had no idea. And when she said she was willing to effectively mutilate her body to ensure her health, I was simply mortified.
    I told her straightaway I didn't agree with it. She is only 15 and as my child, she would need my permission for such an operation.

    I simply couldn't let her to go ahead with it. I can't help worrying she simply hasn't thought this through properly, because breast cancer isn't a death sentence. But then, can I really refuse, and perhaps condemn her to fight for her life in the future?
    Even if she does have a mastectomy, cancer can still occur in any tissue left behind, though it's rare. There is also the risk of infection. If anything goes wrong you could be left terribly scarred.
    And while Joanne can have a breast reconstruction at the same time, they will feel false, not like natural breasts and they won't have any feeling. She wants children but having a mastectomy means she won't be able to breast-feed.
    If I do agree that she can do it, she will almost certainly be the youngest woman to have a preventative mastectomy in the UK.
    My fear is that she will have this done, and then in ten years' time they may have come up with new treatments for breast cancer, perhaps even a complete cure. Then she will regret it for the rest of her life.
    Yet she is so terribly determined. I just pray I can convince her to wait.
     
  2. Joanne says:
    When Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer I was heartbroken, but seeing the agony she's been through in the past few months has made me absolutely sure that I will do anything to avoid contracting this terrible disease.
    The youngest UK woman to have a preventative mastectomy was 24, but I'm not going to wait that long. I want it carried out as soon as medically possible.
    It may be that doctors will say there is a medical reason why I need to wait until I am 16 or worse, 18. But nothing will change my view.
    I respect Mum's decision and reasons for not having a mastectomy, but I would have had the surgery if I were her.
    If I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer I wouldn't have hesitated in having my breasts removed straightaway. Even now, while I'm cancer-free, I cannot wait to be rid of the worry that I feel is hanging over me.

    Every time I get undressed or change I can't help looking at myself and wondering if I too might have a cancer growing inside me. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping because I'm so worried about what will happen to me.
    Although I still face tests to see if I carry this rogue gene which my mother has, doctors have already warned me that it is genetic and that I am highly likely to develop the disease. It may be they can't identify a gene, but this still would not stop me wanting preventative surgery.
    The fact that so many family members have had it is proof enough for me - and doctors - that it is genetic and therefore I am at a very high risk. So, I can't see the point of even waiting for the genetic tests. I would rather just get the whole thing over with.

    I can imagine people may say I haven't stopped growing or I am too young to know my own mind. Many will think I feel like this because I have seen my mother go through so much.
    But haven't made a sudden decision. Because of the family history, this is something I've been thinking about carefully for at least a year, even while mum was simply being monitored and hadn't actually been diagnosed with cancer.
    People also often comment that I am mature for my age, but to be honest whether I was 15 or 50, getting breast cancer would terrify me more than anything.
    It was bad enough seeing my aunt and grandma going through it, but my mum was really ill with the chemotherapy and needed lots of support.
    She couldn't work and and even a relationship she'd struck up with a new partner broke down because he couldn't cope with it.
    The consultant who dealt with Mum told me I would have hard choices to make in the future, but I don't see it that way.

    I may be young and it may be that cancer is unlikely to strike until I am older. But my auntie was only in her thirties and cancers can take years to grow before anyone notices them.
    At the moment I have a haunting fear that as long as I've got breasts, there is the risk that I, too, could develop it.
    Not having any feeling in my breasts or being able to feed a baby myself isn't ideal if they have been reconstructed, yet it is nothing compared to the worry I feel now hangs over me.
    I don't want to go through the fear of constantly checking my breasts, or having regular scans and examinations at hospital, and I don't want to lie awake at night fretting if I find a lump, what it might be. Having a mastectomy will feel like a weight lifted off my mind.

    Losing my natural breasts won't make me feel less of a woman. Lots of young women have breast implants these days, even in their teens, and I don't feel it will be any different from that.
    I also believe it won't affect my love-life in the future because I will still have a good figure, and to be honest, if a man can't cope with the reasons for me having done this so young, then I wouldn't want to be with him anyway.
    I don't see why I won't be able to wear my favourite clothes and have as much fun as the next girl.
    Thankfully, new scientific research announced recently also means that when I have children I may be able to undergo IVF to screen out embryos carrying this gene.

    This means once I've had the operation done I won't have to worry about the prospect of breast cancer any more in me or my children. That's why I want doctors to carry out this surgery as soon as possible - and why nothing is going to change my mind.



    by ALISON SMITH-SQUIRE
     
  3. This is just sooo sad....I dunno what I would do if I were in her position...I could understand her point being that it is terrible to watch someone so close to you or anyone for that matter, go through so much pain. I'm not sure I would have mine removed, but I would def. start having mammograms. I wouldn't wait til age 30.
     
  4. I found this article interesting . My sister in law had a double Mastectomy a few years ago because her Mother ( My Mother in law ) had breast cancer twice.

    My sister in law unfortunately had cancer in one breast and decided to have them both removed.


     
  5. Cancer is genetic, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll contract it. At 15, I think she might be a bit uneducated about cancer and cancer prevention, and perhaps a bit scared. Early detection is the key, and there's no reason she should remove her breasts prior to any sign of cancer. To add to that, it bothers me a bit that women so identify femininity with breasts. Granted breasts are a sign of femininity, but it's not the end all be all. Femininity is the woman within and how she projects herself. Breasts do not make a strong woman.
     
  6. I can see reasons both for and against.

    FOR: Breast cancer runs in her family, so there's a high risk she will get it at some point. (And there's always reconstructive surgery once she has the mastectomy.)


    AGAINST: She's too young. She should wait a few years and reconsider. In the meantime, she should do self-exams. Just because there's a chance, doesn't mean it's a guarantee.


    In the end, they're her breasts, it's her choice. She should discuss it with both her mother and the doctor to make the best possible decision.
     
  7. I agree, she should wait, at least until her mid 20s. There's always new evolving research, and they've been able to identify genetic factors that can identify people with increased risk of breast ca. I think she should wait, perhaps they'll know more about this later.
     
  8. That would be terrifying. I think for myself it would be a last resort.
     
  9. difficult to say because she has seen 4 women at this stage going through breast cancer, and all related treatments, so it isn't like she doesn't know what might be coming her way.

    I understand her mother, I wouldn't want to make that decision but I also understand the daughter. She can wait a few more years though, if she really think it is the right thing to do she can still go for it.l
     
  10. i understand the hurt she must feel but at 15 you make rash decisions that you regret later (i have a tatto that i thought was the coolest when i was underaged but know would kill to get removed). im not trying to trivialise the matter i just think its a little stupid.
     
  11. Well honestly, I think the mother made a poor decision in not getting the mastectomy. As someone who has have a few scares and BC in my family, I can understand where the daughter is coming from. BUT, I do think the daughter should wait until she is in her early 20s, however, I am a big advocate of a women's right to chose a preventative mastectomy.

    ETA: She should actually have the BRCA1/BRCA2 test first. Just because it would appear that her mother has the mutation, she may or may not have inherited it. If she did, I can sympathise with wanting to move more quickly than if she does not.
     
  12. What a horrible position for a young girl to be in. So sad that her mum has this awful disease also.
    I think she is very young to make this decision & possibly ten years could bring a cure. Very hard one to call but I can see why she wants to minimise the risks & with the possibility of reconstructive surgery she won't be without breasts.
    My SIL had this terrible disease at 39, she had reconstructive surgery at same time as mastectomy & later had the other breast "hoisted" to match.
    She is wonderful almost 6 years down the line with a recent scare turning out to be false, thank God!
    I so hope they will find a cure for all types of cancer soon!
     
  13. HOW erie
     
  14. And if she is at such a risk for breast cancer, these days a diagnosis doesn't mean an automatic death sentence if they catch it early enough.

    Ladies, I think it's wonderful that your relatives pulled through something like that, and I wish them all the best.
     
  15. I think it's a bit silly to contemplate something so drastic when you're 15. First of all, history of cancer in the family doesn't mean you'll get it. Often, people who take good care of their health can avoid it. Also, it's unlikley that cancer will strike her until she's well in her thirties. Oncology is a medical field when a lot of advancments are anticipated due to some new discoveries in treatment. In 20 years BC might not be as :wtf: as it is now. Look at AIDS, 10 years ago it was thought to cause death in like 5 years. Nowdays, there are sill people who contracted it in the 80s but they're still alive.