Predictive genetic testing helps breast cancer patient Tammy Goodsell

Tammy Goodsell was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 41, after discovering a painful lump in her breast.

Tammy said “I didn’t regularly check my breasts for lumps, although I know I should have done, but I only noticed a lump when my breast became painful.

“What really took me by surprise is that this was my second cancer diagnosis. I was 38 when I was diagnosed with anal cancer. I really didn’t expect to get it again, at least not for a long time.”

Due to type of breast cancer that Tammy had, she was referred to the family history clinic at East Kent Hospitals for genetic testing.

She said “I met Suzannah Fitzgerald, a breast cancer nurse specialist in family history at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, who explained the process to me. She sent off my blood tests and a few weeks later the results came back to say that I had a mutated BRCA1 gene, which means that I have a significant risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

“As the mutated gene is genetic, my family were invited to be tested too. We’re still waiting for some members of my family to be tested and I’m worried for them because I don’t want them to have to go through this too.

“As I’m a higher risk patient, my cancer had to be treated more aggressively which meant that as soon as I finished my chemotherapy I needed a double mastectomy.

“But it wasn’t just my breasts that we were concerned about. Because of the BRCA1, I went to hospital one day and was set up in a meeting room, throughout the day various health professionals would come and discuss my options. I spoke to gynaecology, psychiatrists and all sorts of people, it was a lot to process but treatment needed to happen urgently in order to give me the best chance of surviving.

“Initially it was just recommended that I have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, but as I had suffered so much damage to my body from my first cancer, I requested to also have a full hysterectomy.

“It was incredibly daunting at first, and the whole process took around two years as I needed time to recover between surgeries, but now I’m happy to say that I most importantly I don’t have the constant worry in the back of my mind as to whether or not the cancer would come back.

“I don’t think I realised until after my surgeries just how much it was affecting me and causing me anxiety, but now I just feel like the biggest weight has been lifted, and I can go back to having a normal life.

“Suzannah put me in touch with a website and Facebook group BRCA Kent which is a peer support group and there’s so much advice on there from people who have been through it, or are going through it and I have found it really helpful to have access to that type of support. My friends and family are really supportive but hearing from people who have experienced something similar to me has been incredibly comforting.”