A breast cancer campaigner has been putting her experience into action in a bid to give patients more choice when it comes to treatment.
Wendy Watson has spent the last 20 years of her life campaigning to help sufferers of hereditary breast cancer, having undergone the country’s first ever double mastectomy in order to avoid the illness herself.
The 57–year–old was on the committee for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) which has released draft guidance saying all women over 30 at high risk of breast cancer should be given the opportunity to take drugs to reduce it.
Around one per cent of women over 30 are deemed to be at high risk and could be offered tamoxifen or a similar drug raloxifen for five years to combat the illness.
Wendy, of Over Haddon, near Bakewell, said: “From the point of view of patients, anything that gives more choice to patients has got to be a good thing and everything NICE looks at has been clinically evaluated – it will have gone through trials.
Despite this, she said she probably wouldn’t have chosen the drug over the double mastectomy.
“The drug reduces the risk by 50 per cent – that would be enough for some people, but not for me,” she explained.
“A mastectomy reduces the risk by almost 100 per cent.”
Wendy set up the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline and was awarded a MBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List for her hard work.
“I’ve sat on NICE guidance committees for familial breast cancer three times now,” she said.
Since NICE released the draft guidance Wendy has received a number of enquiries from patients about it.
“It’s draft guidance at the moment, there’s no tablet of stone to say that one thing is better than another,” she said.
“People need to look at it and make up their own minds.”
For advice on coping with hereditary breast cancer, call the helpline on 01629 813000.