Local MP attends parliamentary launch of ovarian cancer prevention report

Local MP, Mark Tami, attended the launch of Ovarian Cancer Action’s cancer prevention policy report at Westminster on Wednesday 18th October.

The charity is calling for BRCA testing to be made more accessible to people potentially at risk of carrying the BRCA gene mutation, which increases their risk of ovarian, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

In the UK, around 15% of cases of ovarian cancer are linked to BRCA gene mutations1 – this equates to over 1,000 women a year whose lives could potentially be saved and yet, 71% of people have not heard of the BRCA gene.

Carla Atherton, from Flintshire, had an extensive family history of breast cancer. When Carla found out she had inherited a BRCA gene mutation from her father’s side of the family, she immediately requested a mastectomy to reduce her cancer risk. Now, Carla (35) is beginning to think about removing her ovaries, but is desperate to start a family first. Although worried by the prospect of further surgery, Carla is grateful that she has the opportunity to take preventative action for her own, and future family’s, wellbeing. 

“If I’d never known about this gene mutation, it’s very likely I would have developed breast cancer. I owe my life to the NHS and my surgeons who have helped me take preventative action. I’m super nervous about the removal of my ovaries and being put into an early menopause as a result, but what’s the alternative? I have up to a 60% chance of getting ovarian cancer; doing nothing is a risk I can’t take. I can also take measures to ensure I don’t pass my mutation down to any future children I may have. Knowing about this faulty gene will stop with me is a blessing.”

Women like Carla diagnosed with the gene mutation can decide to have surgery to lower their elevated cancer risk, as Angelina Jolie famously did in 2015. It is vital that the NHS offers support around making such important decisions; risk-reducing surgeries will decrease a carrier’s risk of ovarian cancer but could affect fertility and cause premature menopause.

Carla Atherton, Saltney resident

Men can also carry the gene mutation, as it is passed down from parent to child. Carriers have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children.

Mark Tami, who attended the event, said: “This new report shows the importance of BRCA testing in our fight against cancer, and I’m thrilled to pledge my support to such an important campaign. Not only does the Ovarian Cancer Action’s report celebrate the progress that has been made in tackling hereditary cancer, but it also provides a valuable roadmap to what else needs to be done.”

Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “Every eligible woman who has been denied testing and goes on to develop ovarian cancer represents a cancer prevention failure. Treatment for ovarian cancer lags behind other, better known, cancers and survival rates remain low. BRCA testing is one of our strongest weapons in the fight against this disease.

“It is unbelievably important for eligible men and women to have access to testing and that they receive support in making the right decisions for themselves and their families. At Ovarian Cancer Action we’re on a mission to stop women dying before their time and we’ll continue to take action on BRCA testing until it fulfils its potential to save thousands of lives.”