Personal history of breast problems, family history of breast cancer and preventative mastectomy

I’m 41 and currently waiting for the results of my latest mammogram and ultrasound after I found a lump in my left breast a few weeks ago. Everyone who’s ever examined my breasts (medical personnel obviously!) has commented on how lumpy they are. I get used to where the lumpy areas are though, but this new lump is in an area that isn’t normally a lumpy area.

I’m somewhat reassured by the fact that when my GP examined me she said that it didn’t feel like anything ‘sinister’; more like an area of thickened breast tissue, and the consultant I saw at the hospital said pretty much the same thing, but as always, that I needed a mammogram and ultrasound to double-check. When I went for the mammogram and ultrasound last week, the sonographer said the ultrasound looked fairly similar to my previous ones; again reassuring. One of the breast care nurses also said it was positive that they’d not done a biopsy, but obviously until I see the consultant next week for the results, I can’t be sure.

Since my early thirties I’ve had breast problems - nipple discharge and breast pain, often severe. In the past this has been predominantly in my right breast. It culminated in 4 years ago having a ducal excision on my right breast. Unfortunately it didn’t solve either the pain or the discharge, which I still have on a regular basis. I’m now also getting severe pain in my left breast too, around where the lump is.

I also have a family history of breast cancer. 13 years ago, literally days before her 50th birthday, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a mastectomy and radiotherapy she’s done well, though had a recurrence of the cancer on her chest wall a couple of years after her original diagnosis, which was removed, and she’s had no further problem since. My grandma (my mum’s mum) was also diagnosed with breast cancer aged 50. Though she was 5 when she was diagnosed, she developed the cancer in her late 40s, but ignored the symptoms, not going to see her GP until it was too late. By then her cancer was too advanced for treatment to make much difference, and her cancer had already spread. She died less than a year after she was diagnosed. Both my mum and dad have at least one aunty who had breast cancer.

The final factor is my general health. I’m disabled and have only limited mobility. I have a number of long-term conditions, and as time goes on, my conditions and symptoms and my ability to cope with additional health problems diminishes. One of my fears is that if I were to develop breast cancer in 10 years time, around the age both my mum and grandma were diagnosed, that given the fact my long-standing conditions would have worsened by then, my ability to cope with cancer and its treatment would, at best, probably put an end to me working (I struggle with work, even though I only work part time now).

When I go back for my results next week, apart from getting my results, I was intending to ask my consultant about genetic testing, and having regular mammograms (at my last referral to the breast care department before this one, I saw a different consultant, as my usual consultant wasn’t available, who said there was no need for me to have regular mammograms). For a long time though, although I know it’s not the way to look at it, on the subject of cancer I’ve thought of it in terms of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

It’s something I’ve thought of for a while now, but recent events have concentrated my thoughts on the subject, and I’ve decided that I want a preventative mastectomy(ies). I’ve been looking a round online for information about having surgery on the NHS, and it seems that one of the criteria is 2 or more close relatives and/or the presence of the BRCA or TP53 genes.

I’m not sure if I’m reading the guidelines right, but it seems that a grandmother isn’t classed as a ‘close’ relative. Am I reading this right?

Does anyone know whether the guidelines/criteria set in stone, or are other factors taken into account as well?



Hello BlissC

Welcome to the forums, this must be a very difficult time for you but you have come to the right place for support from our experienced users who I’m sure will be along to support you soon.

In the meantime maybe you would like to talk things through with a member of our helpline staff who are there to offer emotional support as well as practical information. The free phone number is 0808 800 6000 and the lines are open Monday to Friday 9.00 to 5.00 and Saturday 10.00 to 2.00.

Best wishes

June, moderator