Plymouth breast removal sisters to lose ovaries

  • Published
Clare Lawrence (left) and Lisa Lillicrap
Image caption,
Clare Lawrence (left) says she is proud of sister Lisa Lillicrap

Two sisters who had a double mastectomy because of the risk of breast cancer say they are also going to have their ovaries removed.

Clare Lawrence, 36, and Lisa Lillicrap, 33, from Plymouth, had both breasts removed last year because because they carry the faulty gene BRCA.

Both are also at higher risk of ovarian cancer because of this.

They got tested for BRCA because they had a known family history of related cancers.

Image caption,
Lisa Lillicrap: "I'll celebrate my 40th birthday with my ovaries out"

BRCA has been dubbed the "Angelina Jolie gene", after the actress revealed she underwent preventative surgery on learning she had an up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer.

Doctors have told the sisters that the nature of the gene means they will not need to have the operation on their ovaries until they reach 40.

Youth worker Lisa, who has two children with a third on the way, said: "I'm going to hit the age of 38 and get the ball rolling with it.

"I'll celebrate my 40th birthday with my ovaries out."

What is the BRCA gene?

Everyone has the BRCA genes, but when a fault occurs in one of them it can result in DNA damage and lead to cells becoming cancerous.

About one in 800 women in the general population are thought to carry the mutation, and 5% of women with breast cancer in the UK will have a faulty form of the BRCA gene.

The faulty genes are also linked to an increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers, as well as breast cancer.

Clare said having the double mastectomy had been a "huge weight lifted off my shoulders".

"We've been able to bounce off each other when it's been hard," she said.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of Lisa for what we've gone through. We've done it together."

Lisa said of the mastectomy that she had been warned she could lose her "sense of identity as a woman".

"But mine was the total opposite," she said.

"I became confident with my decision and I really believed in why I was doing it."

You can see more on this story on BBC Inside Out on BBC One at 19:30 GMT on Wednesday 20 February.