BRCA 1 & BRCA 2, What Does It Mean?

Somber tales

The news this week has been quite compelling for people as Angelina Jolie announced her undergoing a prophylactic double mastectomy to better her chances of not getting breast cancer as she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene. There has been a lot of back and forth opinion pieces made about the choice she has made and as interesting and compelling as both sides have made it, it still comes down to this, having power to make the decisions YOU yourself have made for YOUR body. We cannot condemn someone for making a choice that was the best choice they made for themselves given the information they had presented to them.


It’s interesting, in the research that I have made there have been a lot of  amazing and astonishing stories of women who chose to have double mastectomies as a preventative measure without even knowing if they had BRAC 1 or 2! At first, I can honestly say I was quite shocked and thought it was really crazy to do that but then as I see people writing about how avidly against preventative surgery they are I considered one thing, if it were me, what would I do? Honestly, I can say this, when faced with the possibility that I would have BRCA 1 &2 I did decide if my test came back positive that I would go through with the double mastectomy with reconstruction to ensure that I lowered my chances.


So, a little bit about these pesky genes. As reported in Wikipedia, Both BRCA genes are tumor suppressor genes that produce proteins that are used by the cell in an enzymatic pathway that makes very precise, perfectly matched repairs to DNA molecules that have double-stranded breaks.[7]:39-50[8] The pathway requires proteins produced by several other genes, including CHK2, FANCD2 and ATM.[9] Harmful mutations in any of these genes disable the gene or the protein that it produces.


Now, I know there is a lot of scientific speak there, so let me break it down for you, your family can carry this gene on either side or it can carry both genes and your percentages go higher for possibility of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Now here’s the jist of what I have gotten from it and I can honestly say that this is my take and not necessarily correct so if you are reading this and a science person, please correct me in the comments so I can not go further in life being misinformed as the purpose of this blog is to spread the information and not misinformation! OK, so, you have one of these 2 genes, it makes you more likely to be affected by a tumor that would have cancer in it. Now this is not to say that you are walking around with cancer in your body because that is not what these genes tell us, it tells us it gives you a lower chance of resisting a tumor, or suppressing it, as the Wiki reference states.


So the Wiki-reference goes on to say: Because humans have a diploid genome, each cell has two copies of the gene (one from each biological parent). Typically only one copy contains a disabling, inherited mutation, so the affected person is heterozygous for the mutation. If the functional copy is harmed, however, then the cell is forced to use alternate DNA repair mechanisms, which are more error-prone. The loss of the functional copy is called loss of heterozygosity (LOH).[11] Any resulting errors in DNA repair may result in cell death or a cancerous transformation of the cell.[7]:39-50


Yeah, I know, more science speak but it does help us get to the point. If your body comes in contact with a mutation, whether it be from environment, exposure in life, diet, etc. it is inherent that your body will resist as if there is an error code in your operating system. Kinda like when you go to a website and it says ‘File Not Found Error 404’. This means the body is not capable of giving it the good fight because it kind of goes into a hands-in-the-air screaming and running in circles mode and just does anything it can. Maybe even throwing oil on that kitchen fire making it worse, we really don’t know how it will react.


So, with all this science speak we come back to the decisions of women, and men, they do get breast cancer! What is the right choice for YOU if you are faced knowing you have both of these genes or even one? THAT my friend is up to you! YOU are the person who can best decide what that means you should do. After all, there are doctors out there on both sides of the fence on this one. All I can say is, I was worried enough with my family history to make the choice to get the genetic test done and move on from there. Never mind that none of the women in my family had the mutated genes, it was a sort of relief for me that I was not THAT much higher in the probabilities. I made my informed choice before I knew of the genetic mutation not even being in our family of breast cancer but it was MY choice to go forward and not have surgery simply because I felt it the best choice for me at that given time.


Another interesting point made from Ms. Jolie’s interview is the cost and patent on the genetic testing for women across the world. When I took the test in 2006 it was $3500.00 that was quite an expense and I can’t imagine it being a frivolous expense for anyone. The average person cannot afford this, and sorry, but the insurance companies will reject the test many times before it will agree to pay a portion of it. That was my experience. There was a Supreme Court case against Myriad, the company holding the patent to the BRCA 1&2 gene’s and the biggest message that this case brings to me is that a big company can actually be holding a patent, which by definition means:the exclusive right granted by a government to an inventor to manufacture, use, or sell an invention for a certain number of years.


So, how does a company own the right to a gene that naturally occurs in the body? How is it that, in this court case many other companies have testified to the fact that they can produce a cheaper test ($35-40) if allowed to use the technology that Myriad is controlling the rights to? I really get upset when big companies bully little companies because they are so scared of letting go of the reigns. A simple business tip? If you give stuff willingly you get things in return 10 times because you are doing the right thing.


Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that a company should give it all away, but when another company collaborates with you to create a newer and streamlined product for the betterment of man/womankind, HEY! Wake up call! I think it ends up being a win for all parties if you allow it. I would proudly use the name Myriad instead of how I feel now which is that they are mud. 😦


Let’s hope the news allows for a change in mindset. Let’s hope that Myriad stops grubbing money and allows for the change to happen, without a lawsuit! DO THE RIGHT THING! I can’t even get a copy of my gene test because Myriad will not send the results to anyone who is not a doctor! Cheers for that Myriad!

Wikipedia reference:


A Quick Addition on BRCA 1 & 2 Genes

Read this article as it so eloquently puts the cost inefficiencies of one company, Myriad, owning the patent to our genes! What? Yes, they are currently the holders of the patent to the BRCA 1 & 2 genes and this is why I had to pay $3500 for my genetic testing! It is outrageous when so many companies are out there trying to, but being stopped by Myriad with the help of the courts, create a $30-40 option!!! I believe we have reached a whole new level of insanity with big Pharma. Get Myriad off the books and allow this patent to be cancelled so all women can be tested and given a sigh of relief or be able to use the facts to make informed decisions!
Get this information out there folks! It’s truly worth sharing to the masses!

Britain’s top surgeons for breast cancer reconstruction surgery–voted-specialists-themselves.html

Revealed: Britain’s top surgeons for breast cancer

reconstruction surgery – as voted by the specialists


By Angela Brooks

Last month, breast cancer survivor Yvonne Laidlaw, 57, was awarded £37,000  compensation for reconstruction that left her feeling like a freak, with one breast higher and smaller than the other.

She said her joy at overcoming cancer was replaced for loathing of her body following this ‘cosmetic disaster’. She warned other women to see a consultant specialising in reconstructive techniques.

Clearing the cancer is naturally the priority. But when it comes to reconstruction, there are a host of other issues: do you go for breast reconstruction at the time of the cancer surgery – as Mrs Laidlaw did – or delayed reconstruction?

These decisions might be dictated by personal choice – some patients feel they want to put the cancer behind them and don’t want to be rushed into a decision about the type of breast reconstruction they want so soon after being diagnosed.

For others also undergoing radiotherapy, doctors might recommend postponing reconstruction, as treatment can harden tissues and damage the reconstruction.

More seriously, if the patient develops an infection or other complication following reconstruction, this could delay the start of chemotherapy. This is because chemotherapy works by hitting the fastest-growing cells, which, as well as cancer cells, include white blood cells that fight infection.

Finding the right surgeon might help resolve these issues. But working out your options can be difficult when removing the cancer and rebuilding the breasts can be carried out by three types of surgeons.

‘Breast surgeons are general surgeons whose job is tackling the cancer with a lumpectomy or mastectomy,’ says Adam Searle, consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London.

‘Some have done further training in plastic surgery and are called oncoplastic surgeons – they clear the cancer and will do some reconstruction.’

Finally, there are plastic and reconstructive surgeons who offer the full range of reconstruction techniques, including the most challenging microsurgery where fat is taken from one part of the body to rebuild the breast.

‘When women want an immediate reconstruction, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon works in a team with a breast surgeon who removes the cancer, and then the plastic surgeon takes over,’ says Mr Searle.

So how do you navigate this course and do all you can to avoid Mrs Laidlaw’s experience?

That’s what the Daily Mail set out to do. Our object was to search out the top-rated surgeons across the spectrum in breast cancer surgery up and down the country.

We felt those best placed to rate the top practitioners would be other breast cancer and reconstructive surgeons. So we canvassed 50 leading surgeons and asked them: ‘If your nearest and dearest were to be diagnosed with breast cancer, to whom would you refer them?’

While the top ten surgeons are not evenly distributed around the country, this shouldn’t necessarily be an obstacle for patients.

Under NICE guidelines, all patients should be offered all reconstruction options, even if these aren’t available locally.

Patients are entitled to be referred farther afield on the NHS. Of course, this is only a guide and not a scientific study – there are countless highly skilled surgeons all over the country who didn’t make it into the top ten, yet who spend every day of their working lives rebuilding not just breasts, but shattered self-esteem, too.


Here are Britain’s top ten reconstructive surgeons as voted for by their peers, in no particular order. All work in the NHS and privately.


Consultant oncoplastic surgeon, Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Respected and skilful surgeon who can combine cancer clearance with immediate breast reconstruction. Very firm beliefs on what is best for patients, but knows his own limitations. He will refer a patient to a plastic surgeon if he feels they will benefit from surgery such as DIEP-flaps, where spare fat is taken from the tummy to recreate the breast.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: He is technically excellent and has pushed the boundaries with the most challenging microsurgical techniques. Free flaps – pieces of tissue from, say, the tummy – are taken to recreate the breast. Microsurgons have to be able to plumb veins with the tiniest stitches to ensure that transplanted tissue survives in its new home in the breast.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Glasgow Royal Infirmary

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: Approachable, dedicated and highly skilled surgeon, rated among the top international breast reconstructive surgeons.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, City Hospital, Birmingham

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Kind, sensible, experienced. Full range of microsurgery with good results.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Nottingham Breast Unit, Nottingham City Hospital

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Forward-thinking. Has training in oncoplastic techniques, so is able to clear cancer (as breast surgeons do)and carry out reconstruction.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Royal Marsden, London

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Levelheaded, experienced, charming and thoughtful surgeon who achieves good results.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HER: A great innovator, who has helped pioneer the latest techniques and takes an artistic view of the breast and what can be done to create the best cosmetic result. Also has the psychological skills to support her patients and help them through a difficult time.


Consultant plastic and reconstruction surgeon, Nottingham Breast Unit, Nottingham City Hospital

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Kind, down-to-earth and self-effacing – and a very good surgeon.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Royal Marsden Hospital, London

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Skilful post-mastectomy reconstruction, including the most advanced free flap microsurgery operations.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Slow, but meticulous, with good results.



Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Royal Free Hospital, London

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Fine pair of hands and a good decision-maker.


Oncoplastic surgeon, Nottingham Breast Unit, Nottingham City Hospital

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Often works as a team with Stephen McCulley. Regarded as good at determining what surgical approach to take in order to get the best results. Forward thinking.


Oncoplastic surgeon, Royal United Hospital, Bath

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Highly skilled at skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy. Knows what he can do and does it well. Skin-sparing mastectomy is usually done with an incision around the areola, with the breast tissue then being shelled out through this hole. But it can also be done with an incision in the breast crease. It isn’t always possible to spare the nipple when the cancer is close by because it can be hard to ensure you’ve moved all traces of the disease. These women will go on to have nipple reconstruction and tattooing.


Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: Regarded as a very good microsurgeon.


Breast surgeon, Basildon University hospital

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM: ‘Phenomenal and meticulous’ breast surgeon. Takes out all tissue without damaging the skin.

Timing Critical in Breast Cancer Surgery

Another really interesting article I read on Cancer Active’s website. Link is included. Next up I’ll have an article about the UK’s top reconstructive surgeons as voted by the people! Loving the input we are finally getting in the press!


Dr Paul Layman wrote to us to clear up an error in the Tony Howell interview. Paul writes, “An eighteen year study on the protective effect of natural progesterone has recently been confirmed. The oestrogen receptor status of breast cancer is now thought to be of significance in recurrence rates, but the Imperial College study seemed to suggest that the timing of breast surgery was more important than receptor status“.


And he is perfectly correct. Choosing the correct point in your monthly cycle to have a breast operation can increase your 10-year survival chances by two thirds! Every woman and their doctor should know this fact.


The Imperial Cancer Research Fund (Cancer, 15 Nov 1999) states clearly that “Women having breast tumours removed during the follicular phase of their cycle (that is days 3-12 when their oestrogen is high) have a 10-year survival rate of only 45 per cent, compared to a 10-year survival rate of 75 per cent for women having surgery during the luteal phase (when progesterone is high).”


Indeed the research also showed that oestrogen receptor positive and progesterone receptor positive tumours had the highest survival rates if surgery was performed in the second half of a woman’s cycle.


This work confirmed an earlier study from Guy’s Hospital by Cooper, Gillett, Patel, Barnes and Fentiman in August 1999 and yet earlier work by Hrushesky et al (Lancet 1989).


The Four Pillars Of Cancer

This article was in an issue of Icon, a magazine created by Cancer Active and they are an amazing resource for all things cancer. So if you’re looking for the newest research, some inspiring stories or alternative therapies they have it all! I highly recommend them.

Originally published in July 2002 icon, updated June 2006

icon magazine is just over 3 years old and, judging by readers´ comments, goes from strength to strength. One of the very first articles we ever ran was entitled ´The 4 Pillars of Cancer´. Over the last three years a great deal of new scientific research has been reported and we have learned far more about the ´4 Pillars´. So much so that it was the title for the talks I recently gave on my world tour in the USA, Australia, Japan, Ireland and the UK.

There are thousands of ways of approaching the subject of cancer – its prevention or its treatment. The ´4 Pillars´ is just one of them, but it is both a simple and all-embracing route to help both would-be preventers and those already afflicted with this terrible disease.

A few years ago the World Health Organisation opined that there were three overall causes of cancer, and tried to estimate the relevance of each:

50 per cent caused by POOR DIET

25 per cent caused by TOXINS

25 per cent caused by INFECTION

Many experts would argue that to this list of tangible reasons must be added a much harder area to estimate or quantify:

Unknown per cent caused by MENTAL STATE

Why Worry About The Causes?

50 years ago those people with genetic factors had a 40 per cent chance of developing the disease

Most people reading this have cancer. A number do not, and nor do they want it. Some, however, may feel cancer ´runs in their family´. Certainly 50 years ago those people with genetic factors (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2) had a 40 per cent chance of developing the disease. With modern environments and modern lifestyle, that figure is now just over 70 per cent. However, before those people get too depressed, please be aware that a 2001 Swedish study of identical twins across Europe showed that just because one family member with the genes developed a disease, the identical sibling did not have to, providing he or she took important lifestyle and dietary steps for avoidance. There´s the good news.

To a great degree, the power is in your own hands. The US Chief Medical Officer said that, “this study should remove the ´fatalism´ that because it runs in my family, I must get it too.” You do not ´have´ to get cancer as long as you are prepared to make some effort, The ´4 Pillars hopefully tells you how to ´do´ the basics!

But understanding the causes is also crucial to the person already diagnosed with cancer.

For example, if you smoked and developed lung cancer, by and large whatever your doctor did you would expect the disease to return if you carried on smoking. What causes your cancer could well be the very thing that is maintaining it too.

Understanding Cause Is Crucial To Treatment

Take Professor Jane Plant, for example. Breast cancer was diagnosed, various orthodox treatments used and failed and with tumours behind her neck, she was told to go home and make a will. As a scientist herself, she decided to look for the cause, identified the possibility of dairy, cut this out and within six weeks the tumours had gone. But then, many breast cancers are hormonally driven and since 1991 (NCI, America) we have known that IGF1, found in dairy, can interfere with cell division causing cells to grow rapidly and even mutate.

Many such cancers are a result of ´toxins´, poisoning the system

Take Michael Gearin-Tosh, Oxford Don and multiple mycloma sufferer who, given the choice of extending his life expectancy from 18 months to 30 months by having chemotherapy, instead chose to use the Gerson Therapy and has survived and thrived for almost 10 years. But then, many such cancers are a result of ´toxins´, poisoning the system. For example, farmers have higher rates of multiple myeloma due to their use of pesticides. And the Gerson therapy is an excellent way of ´detoxifying´ the blood system and cells.

Changing The Odds

With every cancer there is an average 5-year survival rate. It´s a statistic. A rate that varies, often widely, by country. With prostrate cancer in Austria the 5-year figure is 83.6%, but in England it is only 53.8%. Clearly then the package of medical treatments, your lifestyle and diet can increase, or worsen, your odds of survival.

Dr Rosy Daniel, former Head of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre says that by building a complete, integrated, holistic programme (using the best of orthodox and complementary, even alternative therapies), a patient can improve their odds of 5-year survival by as much as 60 per cent. And that sounds good enough to me!

But then, if only as a piece of logic, why cannot the orthodox medical world just consider this? ´If 50 per cent of all cancers are supposedly caused by a POOR DIET, couldn´t just some of these patients benefit – even be cured – by a GOOD DIET?´

Cause – An Approach To Treating Cancer?

I know it sounds a bit simplistic but if I were an oncologist, or merely a GP, with a newly diagnosed cancer patient, I´d be spending serious time with them asking:

Q: What may have caused this cancer and what might therefore be maintaining it?

Q: Is it hormonally driven? (Oestrogen drives far more than breast cancer!)

And then I´d be saying to the patient:

A: “Right, before we go near any surgery, radio or chemotherapy we are going to do everything in our power to boost your natural defences – your immune system.”

A: “And we will try and get more oxygen into your blood.”

Why? Well the evidence is quite clear; cancer is systemic – weak immune systems lead to more disease and more cancer. Lowered oxygen levels lead to more cancer. Look into Darkfield Microscopy or Russian algae/photscan diagnosis and this will become abundantly clear; or just read some of the research we´ve covered in Cancer Watch over the last three years.

Cancer is systemic – weak immune systems lead to more disease and more cancer

Cancer is a whole body disease. And this dictates a whole body treatment approach.

And so we come back to you, the reader and, if you have a cancer, how you might begin adding to your doctor´s orthodox expertise.

Poor Diet, Toxins, Infections, Mental State? Unlike the World Health Organisation, we urge you not to think of these as separate boxes.

For example, depression lowers your blood oxygen; poor diet weakens your immune system. This may be exacerbated by certain chemicals and toxins, increasing the chances of infection and ´tipping you over the edge´ into a cancer.

So don´t look for one cause, examine your whole lifestyle. Go with your doctor´s orthodox recommendations, but evaluate them fully and ask objective questions. Two recent studies showed that patients did not understand ´doctorspeak´ when it came to cancer and were also turning more and more to the web because it ´empowered them´ and put them back in charge of their own treatment programme. However, there are great dangers in chasing around the web; some sites talk complete rubbish! Be circumspect. And always get a second opinion, on anything you consider doing!

Read the following ´4 pillars´; copy it/photostat it. Take it with you when you see your oncologist and tell him clearly what you intend to do to increase your own chances of survival around his plans for you. Be open, be honest. But remember, it´s your life. And you must be happy with the final plan.

Managing Your Survival Plan

You are now entering a world largely outside your GP and oncologist´s medical training

The fundamental truth about building a complementary therapy programme, or about addressing the causes (and therefore any likely treatments) via the 4 Pillars of Cancer is that you are now entering a world largely outside your GP and oncologist´s medical training. Natural human nature can then sometimes play an unhelpful role.

Poor diet/good diet – we know oncologists who will confirm that they have never spent a single day studying nutrition or diet (nor supplements) and therefore are simply not qualified to express an opinion. However, despite this, some will reject all supplementation and diet therapies.

Toxins – the majority of these, and their links to cancer are way beyond your doctor´s knowledge or training.

Infection – here your doctor should be able to advise, although science is moving very quickly and they may not be completely up-to-date.

Mental State – almost certainly an area completely foreign to your oncologist. It is a new and very specialised area.

So he may encourage you, or he may try to dissuade you. All the more reason to photostat this whole article and give him a copy. Beating cancer is about RISK MANAGEMENT. And that´s all we are trying to do in this article: Improve your statistics and make you a well-above-average case.

Message To Doctors

And if you are a doctor reading this, please understand that we have research that supports these pages, almost all of it is readily available on our website. Please, please be open-minded, we are just trying to increase the odds of survival for your patient.

And if you want to amplify the possible causes and actions, try reading ´Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer´. It has been Britain´s No 1 selling cancer book for the last two years – the first 12 copies in Japan were all bought by doctors!

I Wonder If……

Do you ever wonder if things were mapped out for you? You know, like is the theory that we come into this life with a certain contract true so it’s all happening the way we traced it out before we even were born? My husband would say bollocks to this theory but then, he believes in nothing. Yeah, not even ghosts. 😉

So I often wonder if the theory was true then is it the outcome we are in contract for or is the whole thing carefully planned and plotted? Or is it like one of those mystery shows where the ending or the murderer can change given one thing is switched around? It is a perplexing thing and one that I really don’t have time to ponder too much on.

I speak about this because I have found that a lot of the studies are showing that the many things that create a fertile environment for breast cancer are the things around us, environment, diet, habits and more. So, given the right situation we are fertilising ourselves for further trouble. I guess I can see it really, my mother found herself clear of the cancer and went right back to drinking. When I say drinking, I don’t mean the occasional drink here and there, I mean some serious pounding of alcohol. She was a vodka drinker and for a long time in my young adult years I was adverse to drinking water because she drank it with very little water in it and when I was thirsty and would grab for her water glass I got the rude awakening that this clear fluid in her glass was NOT water! It was a very bad experience for me. I now love water so I got over it but what a way to find out the big ‘secret’ in our house.

I was sad when she went back to the bottle because it was a bit of a hit to me as I thought we had worked on a lot of her self-esteem issues. The thing is, if you have a very deep-seeded confidence issue it isn’t something that a 5 day intervention with your wardrobe and daughter’s NLP exercises can really remove. The professionals really needed to be involved. Meaning the detox from that stuff. Or perhaps a moment in a room with Tony Robbins would have done her some good. Either way, it got into her bones and liver. No, I wasn’t surprised about the liver part, after all it was a long time she drank like that and I suppose it meant that she was living in a different reality than I really knew.

So, the point of my writing this time around is that, no matter what people are going through, there is a deeper part of it that we have to connect with in order to remove the ‘stinking thinking’ as I call it. There is a process and it really needs to be followed through as well as experienced on a regular basis for it to really stick. Sometimes it takes less time with different types of people. All depends on which level you are at. I am really invested in my clients to take them to the level of healing that they can be in and to metamorphosis into amazing women. Breast cancer takes its toll on your body and mind, my interest is to help you find the clarity through the fog. Let’s do this thing called awesome, together! 🙂