Just over 2,300 women and around 15 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Wales. It is by far the most common type of cancer for women. But, as more women become aware of the disease, more women are surviving.
The so-called celeb effect has made us more aware than ever before. And with a society calling for earlier diagnosis and preventative treatment, rather than diagnosis and cure, our relationship with cancer could be changing.
Wales has seen an increase in Mastectomy operations in the last 3 years and trends seem to have peaked after celebrities like Kylie Minogue, Sharon Osborne, Michelle Heaton and Angelina Jolie revealed their individual experiences to the world.
Most get the disease by chance but the biggest risk factors are being female and getting older. But cancer charity Tenovus say they are increasingly seeing more and more young women asking for support.
In 2012, Leanne Hugglestone was diagnosed with Grade 3, Stage 1 Breast Cancer. She was just 32 years-old. Experts say that young cancers are likely to be genetic or hereditory. But, Leanne has tested negative for the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene despite also having a strong history of breast and ovarian cancer on her father’s side.
Leanne has had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and trialled various medications to reduce the chance of cancer coming back. But, at the age of 34, she is fearful that it will come back. And with an 80% chance of recurrence, due to her family history, she has decided to have preventative surgery by having a double mastectomy followed by a reconstruction.
Genetic testing is currently available on the NHS but, only if you have a strong family history of breast cancer and or other related cancers.
The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene were only discovered in the 1990s and are currently the only genes that are tested but, it in actual fact they are incredibly rare. And only account for 5-10% of all breast cancer cases. That’s 130 in Wales per year. So why is it that we are dedicating so much time and resource to it?
Wales This Week has followed Leanne over the last 8 months, through her surgery and recovery after having a double mastectomy.
To see Leanne's story in full and hear from other women who have been through a similar experience click the video below for the full programme Wales This Week: Mastectomy and Me**.