When Rebecca Nutley discovered she was a carrier of the BRCA gene mutation she was “devastated”.
As an Ashkenazi Jewish woman she was 10 times more likely to carry the mutation, which increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.
At 27, and a mother to a six-year-old daughter, Ms Nutley has undergone a double mastectomy to avoid developing the cancer that has plagued her family.
“My mum had breast and ovarian cancer three times when I was growing up and my grandma died of it at 57,” she said.
“It was always at the back of my mind that I could be a carrier. I had no real choice after I found out I was positive.”
Women with the mutation are 80 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer and 50 per cent more likely to develop ovarian cancer than the general population.
When doctors told Ms Nutley she was a carrier her world “fell apart”.
“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t devastate you, it does, but I took a deep breath and I knew what I had to do,” she said.
Ms Nutley is recovering at home in Bushey, Hertfordshire, following the operation three weeks ago.
She said the actress Angelina Jolie, who underwent the same preventative surgery, had inspired her.
“I think it helps when people like her talk about their experiences because it helps people to know they can do it.
“At first I really didn’t want to deal with it. Emotionally I wasn’t ready but I had to know.
“I watched my mum go through chemo and lose my grandmother and I could not imagine my daughter having to go through that.”
Ms Nutley, a merchandise coordinator, said there was a lack of awareness and support for Jewish women who carry the gene.
“One in 40 Jewish women have this mutation and there is not enough being done to educate them and bring them together.
“I wanted to talk to other people like me but there was nowhere I could go.”
Ms Nutley wants to encourage carriers of the gene to consider preventative surgery.
“A lot of people are too scared. They are scared to find out if they have it and scared of the surgery. But it will save my life. I feel that so many women would benefit from knowing what they can do to help loved ones or themselves go through this procedure.
“In 10 years I’ll be 37, that is the same age as my mum when she got cancer and I won’t have to worry about getting it. My daughter won’t worry about me getting it.”
Ms Nutley now plans to take part in a Three Peaks Challenge mountain climb to raise funds for counselling for those who are affected by the genetic mutation.