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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 11:19 GMT
'I will lose my breasts to save my life'
Jane Elliott
BBC News Online Health Staff

Vikki Jones
Vikki has a family history of breast cancer

Within a few days Vikki Jones will lose both her breasts when she undergoes a double mastectomy.

She doesn't have breast cancer, but is having the operation because she has been told her risk of developing it in future is very high.

As the operation approaches - and in its aftermath, Vikki has volunteered to write a web diary for BBC News Online.

For the last year Vikki has been on the waiting list for the three-hour operation and reconstructive surgery.

Vikki, from Kent, does not have cancer, but does have a family history of the disease and fears that if she does not take this drastic step she could lose her life to cancer.

She worries that even with regular screening doctors might not detect a cancer until it is too late.

Cancer

Her mother died from breast cancer aged just 41 and then four years ago her sister got breast cancer and needed a mastectomy before the age of 37.

"When my sister got it they didn't think she had a tumour, just that she had pre-cancerous cells.

I saw my sister go through chemo and it was hideous
Vikki Jones

"But then they took off the breast and found that she had a massive tumour.

"I just want it over and done with. I am looking forward to it in a sick sort of a way. I am fine with it.

"I am not saying it is going to be an easy option, but it is the decision I have made.

"The only time I have ever had second thoughts was when my dad died after picking up an infection in hospital."

She has told daughter Milly, aged five, about the operation, but says toddler Tate is still too young to understand what his mum is going through.

Vikki watched her mother die and is terrified that she will suffer a lingering death and leave her children with the same terrible memories that she has of her own childhood.

"As the cancer spread they amputated. She had to have her arms amputated when it spread to her lymph nodes.

"She did not last much longer after that.

"I don't remember her being well and I don't want my kids to remember me like that.

"I saw my sister go through chemo and it was hideous," she said.

Decision

She says it has been a difficult decision, but it has been taken with the full support of the medical staff and after psychological testing and counselling from experts at Guy's Hospital, London.

She says that reaction to her operation has been mixed. Friends and family have been very supportive, but others have suggested more cynical motives.

"They think it is quite a drastic thing to do. I think it is because I am quite young. They tend to think it is an older person's thing. Some people have said it is because I want to have new boobs.

"People have said what are you doing that for, and they think it is to get a boob job on the NHS.

"But the boobs I am having will be the same size as these, except that after two kids, the new ones will be a bit more pert."

Before her operation Vikki had to give up alcohol and cigarettes.

She says the alcohol was no problem, but admits having a struggle giving up the cigarettes.

Vikki says she knows that 32 is a young age to be considering such drastic surgery, but is convinced she has made the right decision.

Having the operation will reduce Vikki's chance of getting breast cancer from between 50-60% to just 1%.

If she were not keeping her nipples and the breast tissue behind them then the risk factor would be reduced even further.

A friend has taken pictures of her breasts before the operation and will photograph them again after her reconstructive surgery to give her a permanent memento.

Vikki's diary will be published on BBC News Online on Tuesday.


SEE ALSO:
Mastectomies often 'unnecessary'
17 Oct 02  |  Health


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