In November of last year, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose discovered that she had inherited a high genetic risk of breast cancer. She decided to get a double mastectomy—but only if she didn't win the pageant. But Even this wasn't enough of a kotow to the powers of pageantry. When she went public with her decision, Rose received hate mail from "purists" of the beauty pageant circuit who attempted to bully her into keeping her potentially-lethal cluster of cells. (Umm, does "having all of the necessary info, and deciding to have tumors" count as a pageant talent?) Rose told AP: "You have people who say, 'Don't have the surgery. This is mutilating your body. You don't have cancer.'"
Three related Manchester women—50-year-old Cath Gilroy, her daughter Clare Shaw and sister Elaine Price, all of whom were diagnosed with a rare mutation that gives them a terrifying 85% chance of cancer—chose an effective triple-whammy series of -ectomys: their breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes will be preemptively removed.
The gene, BRCA2, is found in about one in 500 people and was first discovered in Gilroy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, and when Price went to get genetic testing she was found to be in the early stages of cervical cancer. (Their third sister, Joanne, tested negative for the faulty gene.) Not only were the statistics primed for these women's decision, as mastectomies can reduce breast cancer risk up to 90% and ovary removal has an 85% chance of preventing ovarian cancer, but they saw these results personally. Their mother and grandmother had suffered from breast cancer—while their grandmother had a mastectomy and lived another 20 years after her diagnosis, their mother opted not to, and subsequently passed away from the disease at age 60.
Gilroy says that she had to "demand" the genetic test from doctors, and has been waiting to have the procedure done for the last 10 months; because it's preventative, she says, it's a low priority. She and her family have opted to speak out on behalf of other possible high-risk women in order to encourage them to go for genetic testing.
Shaw, 36, said that the drastic surgery was a "no-brainer" for her: "It was a choice between an 85 per cent risk or the surgery. It was something I decided I needed to do for myself and for my son." The 15-year-old boy has a 50% risk of having the gene and will be tested when he turns 18.