Mum has breasts removed after losing ‘genetic lottery’

Jo Menken, 35, with her daughter Cameron Lucas, 9. Ms Menken had a double mastectomy in 2016 after testing positive for a cancer marker. Picture: Caitlin Roselt
Jo Menken, 35, with her daughter Cameron Lucas, 9. Ms Menken had a double mastectomy in 2016 after testing positive for a cancer marker. Picture: Caitlin Roselt

LIKE Oscar-winning actor Angelina Jolie, Jo Menken has taken the drastic step of having both her breasts removed after testing positive to a genetic defect that put her at high risk of cancer.

Ms Menken's mother Robin Menken was treated for breast cancer in 2009 and her aunt, Vicki Sidoti, developed ovarian cancer in 2013, prompting doctors to screen them for gene mutations known to cause cases of both cancers.

When her mum and aunt tested positive to a cancer-causing mutation in the BRCA2 gene, Ms Menken and four of her five siblings also decided to be screened.

Three of them, including Ms Menken, lost the genetic lottery and were found to have inherited the defective gene, giving them a strong chance of developing cancer at some stage in their lives.

The 35-year-old opted to have a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery last year to reduce her cancer risk and will consider having her ovaries removed once she's turned 40.

"I'm single, I've got one daughter, I'm not completely sure if I want more children or not but I'd like that option if I do meet somebody," Ms Menken said.

"I'm taking a bit of a risk but that's where I'm at with that."

Ms Menken has started fundraising for the Brisbane Breast Bank in the hope that her daughter, Cameron Lucas, 9, has better choices if she has also inherited the gene mutation.

The young mum donated her breast tissue to the bank, part of the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research based on the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital campus at Herston, in Brisbane's inner-north.

Brisbane Breast Bank tissue is used by researchers nationally and worldwide to learn more about the development and progression of breast cancer.

Professor Sunil Lakhani, head of UQ's Breast Pathology Group, established the breast tissue bank in 2005 and has used samples himself to research early breast cancers and those which have spread to the brain.

He's about to launch a pilot human trial into whether an existing drug, pertuzumab, can get into the brain of breast cancer patients whose tumours have spread. If that proves successful, the hope is to develop a full trial to test the drug as a treatment for breast cancer patients with secondary tumours in the brain.

Ms Menken has organised a Breast Wishes Ball on October 14, hoping to raise $50,000 for the breast bank.

To sponsor the ball, or to purchase tickets:

Topics:  breast breast cancer cancer editors picks surgery

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