Cancer Sisters

Reporter: Karryn Cooper

"My great grandmother died of breast cancer, then my grandmother died of breast cancer as well. My grandmothers sister died at 50, my mother was diagnosed at 50, my aunt diagnosed at 50" -- it's a lethal family legacy. But for sisters Christine, Veronica and Elisha Neave growing up with such a background in breast cancer wasn't something they wanted to give too much thought to. "You always think breast cancer is hit and miss", they said.

Until now. A test is available to see if you have a specific gene called BRCA2. The test to discover whether you have that gene is still in its infancy, and unless there's a family member who has breast cancer and the gene can be isolated, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. But with one in eight women diagnosed with the disease, there's a good chance many Australian women will be able to test for the gene. But would you want to?

Claudette was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49 and has undergone a mastectomy. Now 60 she's battling a recurrence. Her three daughters -- all young mums themselves - have opted to have the test and all three have been told they do have the gene. "I sit at about 80% chance of getting breast cancer and about 60% chance of getting ovarian cancer", said 39-year-old Veronica. Regardless of age, it's the same odds for her sisters 42-year-old Christine and 29-year-old Eisha.

But for Christine and her husband Ray, the reality has hit home -- she's had to do some deep soul searching. ""Each time I went for an ultra sound or mammogram, I got a little more -- ooh this is terrible, this big lead up, are they going to find something this time -- and the angst it was causing me. ....." she said.

Christine has decided to take away the anxiety and the risk and is about to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. "Its a real hard decision to make, the decision to take 2 healthy breasts off", she said. But after watching what her mother endured, she says choosing not to would have been harder. "What women go through when they get breast cancer is really, really horrible. It's invasive, its long term, its terrible stuff", Christine said.

Her two sisters, also healthy, vibrant women, are at the cross roads. The girls, together with their family, are making a documentary called "Pieces of Me", helping them to fit their own thoughts into such an implausible puzzle. "What we found, it was so hard to find info about BRCA2, about choices and options. It is such a new area we just wanted to create some thought provoking information. Choosing whether to have the test, choosing whether to go further, not to have the test, choosing weather to have surgery -- they've got choices to make", the girls said. Christine has now had the surgery and is recovering well.

For more information about the documentary, "Pieces of Me", email info@bigskypublishing.com.au or visit the website at: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/