There are surely few diseases which frighten women more than breast cancer and for those with a family history of the disease it’s a veritable ‘sword of Damocles’.
Never knowing when or if the disease will catch up with them must be one of the worst feelings in the world.
And that’s exactly what Carluke woman Amanda Stewart (32) has had to live with.
Amanda is one of five cousins whose parents have all been affected.
Two of the cousins mums died from the disease, while a further two have had to receive treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Of the five cousins – Yvonne McKenna (38), Catherine Keeney (28), Suzanne McCormack (39) and Laura McGuinness (42) – none have tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene which is known to cause the cancer.
Nonetheless, doctors offered to perform the operations due to the substantially increased risk, given the family’s medical history.
Amanda underwent a successful double mastectomy last week at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in an attempt to finally lay the spectre of cancer to rest.
Amanda and Catherine’s mother, Angela, as well as Suzanne’s mother, Sadie, suffered from the disease.
Sisters Yvonne and Laura sadly lost their mother, Catherine, to the disease, and Josephine Murray, an aunt to all five cousins, also died from cancer.
Amanda said: “Cancer has always been there, hanging over us like a dark cloud.
“Hearing my mum utter the words, ‘your aunt has cancer’ time and time again was bad enough.
“But when she told me that she also had it, my world collapsed.
“I don’t want to have to tell my son, Callan, or daughter, Erryn, the same news.”
Catherine, from Newarthill, is due to have the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery next month.
“We are very lucky to have been given the chance,” she said. “My mum and aunts would have jumped at it.”
Catherine admitted that she was nervous but said that if she didn’t have the operation she would constantly worry about being the next woman in her family to have her world “turned upside down” by cancer.
Suzanne added that she was having the mastectomy for the sake of her children: “I don’t want to be frightened any more,” she said.
Julia Frater, a Cancer Research UK information nurse, said: “Preventative surgery to remove both breasts can be an option for some women at high risk of developing breast cancer – either because they have inherited a faulty gene or because they have a particularly strong family history of the disease.
“Other options are screening and medicines to reduce the risk of breast cancer developing.”
Any women concerned about a family history of breast cancer can see their GP for advice.
They can also call one of the Cancer Research UK nurses for free, Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm, with any questions or concerns they may have about cancer on 0808 800 4040.