My first visit to see my Cancer Genetics Consultant Dr Kai ren Ong was very positive and she explained everything to me. I told her I had made my decision to have a double mastectomy and eventually remove my ovaries. I was 29 years old and hadn’t yet even thought about having children, I was enjoying my life and concentrating on my career having just passed my Sergeants exam (I’m pretty sure my brother was up there helping me).
I was very quickly referred to see a breast consultant and was soon having yearly breast screening by way of an MRI scan (not great for someone who is claustrophobic) and blood tests to check my CA125 testing (although this test alone cannot diagnose ovarian cancer and should be followed up with other tests such as an ultrasound). The test results could also be effected by other conditions such as endometriosis along with other such cancers of the gynaecological system,bowel and lung. There is currently no effective ovarian cancer screening methods and it has ben recommended that I have my ovaries removed at around 40 years of age (I have quite a few more years left before I do this) and so for now I will continue with the yearly blood tests.
I saw a number of breast consultants over the next few years as well as a psychologist and plastic surgeon. It was during a visit with a female breast consultant when she looked at me like I was completely mad and said “you do understand you only have about 85% of getting breast cancer at some point in your life and not now so I don’t see the big rush”. My reply “well if you told me I had an 85% chance of winning the lottery at some point in my life I’d say I was going to be a millionaire at some point and I’d rather that happened sooner rather than later but I don’t wish breast cancer anytime soon so I’d rather get rid of that risk”. She very quickly finished our appointment and I never saw her again – thankfully.
I was given information about all the different options available and decided that I would opt for a risk reducing bilateral nipple sparing double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using implants and strattice reconstructive tissue matrix. The strattice (pigs skin- very apt with my job) works like an internal bra, cradling the implant and allowing some of the natural droop of a normal breast.
It was first developed for use in general surgery such as hernia repairs and breast reconstruction in the U.S. and was granted approval for use in Europe in 2008. Later that year the first pigskin breast reconstruction was carried out in the UK.