Australian woman's brave decision to have both of her breasts removed at the age of just 25... after learning she had inherited rare cancer gene from her terminally ill mother

  • Elise Worthington underwent double mastectomy on Tuesday night
  • 25-year-old inherited BRCA1 cancer gene like her mother six months ago
  • Risk of getting breast cancer with the rare gene is between 40-65 per cent
  • The gene mutation is linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

By Emily Crane


A Brisbane woman who decided to have a double mastectomy after being told she had an increased risk of getting breast cancer has emotionally declared she will not get sick from a rare gene mutation that has been passed down three generations.

Elise Worthington, 25, inherited the same BRCA1 cancer gene that saw her great grandmother and grandmother diagnosed with breast cancer and her mother diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer last month.

Ms Worthington, an ABC journalist, underwent her double mastectomy on Tuesday night as the ABC's 7.30 program aired video diaries of her decision to have the preventative surgery and the moment she learned her mum Sylvia may only live for another two years.

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Elise Worthington, 25, underwent her double mastectomy on Tuesday night as the ABC's 7.30 program aired video diaries of her decision to have the preventative surgery

Elise Worthington, 25, underwent her double mastectomy on Tuesday night as the ABC's 7.30 program aired video diaries of her decision to have the preventative surgery

'Mum's just told me her cancer has returned that she was in remission from. I knew it was going to come back at some point,' Ms Worthington said in tears.

'It's been five months since she stopped chemo. I just hoped she wouldn't have to go through it again so soon.

'I'll help her get through it and I'm going to get through it and she's going to be the last woman in this family to get sick from this gene and I'm going to be fine.'

Ms Worthington said she made the decision to have the mastectomy, famously underwent by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie who had the same BRCA1 gene, before her mother was diagnosed with cancer again last month.

Ms Worthington, an ABC journalist, inherited the same BRCA1 cancer gene that saw her mother, Sylvia, diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer last month

Ms Worthington, an ABC journalist, inherited the same BRCA1 cancer gene that saw her mother, Sylvia, diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer last month

 

Ms Worthington made the decision to remove her breasts back in May but said the reality of her decision has only recently hit her

Ms Worthington made the decision to remove her breasts back in May but said the reality of her decision has only recently hit her

'As I struggle with the idea of losing part of me, I am also learning how to cope with the idea of losing my mother,' she said. 

'We don't know how long she will live, maybe one year, or two.'

The risk of a woman with the BRCA1 gene developing breast cancer is between 40 and 65 per cent.

Ms Worthington made the decision to remove her breasts back in May but said the reality of her decision has only recently hit her.

'I'm feeling scared and looking forward to it being over and done with,' she said in her final video diary before the procedure.

Ms Worthington said she made the decision to have the mastectomy before her mother was diagnosed with cancer again last month

Ms Worthington said she made the decision to have the mastectomy before her mother was diagnosed with cancer again last month

The risk of a woman with the BRCA1 gene developing breast cancer is between 40 and 65 per cent, according to genetic specialist Dr Michael Gattas

The risk of a woman with the BRCA1 gene developing breast cancer is between 40 and 65 per cent, according to genetic specialist Dr Michael Gattas

'It's just kind of hit me in the last couple of days what I'm doing and doing it so publicly as well.

'But I've found it's been such a struggle these past couple of months working out what the right thing for me to do it.'

Ms Worthington said the reason she shared her decision on national television was to encourage people to speak about gene mutations, like the BRCA1 gene, early to avoid situations like her own.

'If I had seen something like this with my mum maybe we could have spoken about our family history more and maybe she would have been tested and maybe she wouldn't be in the situation she's in now,' Ms Worthington said.

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, who had the same BRCA1 gene as Ms Worthington, famously underwent a mastectomy in 2013

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, who had the same BRCA1 gene as Ms Worthington, famously underwent a mastectomy in 2013

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Nothing but respect,

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I watched this last night with tears in my eyes. Very brave to share this story, good luck Elise, and best wishes to your mum and family.

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Very brave & I imagine she's also faced with having to decide when/if to have her ovaries removed which obviously has serious implications. Tough decisions for such a young woman.

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I'm positive for the BRCA1 mutation. My grandmother fought ovarian cancer twice and died, my aunt has had breast cancer twice and my mother died at age 30 from a brain tumor after having a mastectomy at age 28. My aunt and I have the same mutation which probably was passed down the maternal line. I was diagnosed with Stage III Ovarian cancer three years ago at age 37, underwent a complete hysterectomy and recently went into remission again after a recurrence last August. My risk of breast cancer is 85%. In August I'm consulting with a surgeon about removing my breasts. Here's the thing, though: even if you remove your breasts you still have the gene mutation and can still pass it on to your children. Constant monitoring is the only thing you can really do and hope to catch a cancer early.

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Elise, you are a very brave and inspiring woman. Best wish's to you and your Mam x

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You are a very brave and inspiring woman.

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What a brave woman you are to share your story like this and to make the decision to have the operation. Your Mum must be so proud of you!

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Such a terrible thing to happen and she is exceptionally brave to do this. My heart goes out to her.

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You are so brave. May you be blessed with a long and happy life.

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Best wishes to her...

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