According to a story from independent.ie, acclaimed author Emma Hannigan announced that her final options for treatment had been exhausted in her fight with BRCA-mutated breast cancer. Her doctors have told her that she does not have long to live. She is 45 years old.
Early signs of BRCA-mutated breast cancer can include a lump in the breast, skin dimpling, fluid coming from the nipple, a red patch of scaly skin, and changes in breast shape. Other symptoms include persistent pain around the breast or armpit region. For Emma, things were more complicated. In 2005 she discovered that she carried a BRCA-1 gene abnormality that dramatically increased her chance to develop cancer. Women with the BRCA-1 abnormality have a 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer and an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
Outcomes for breast cancer are highly variable and depend mostly on the severity of the breast cancer. Once cancer has spread from the breast, prognosis becomes much worse. Ten year survival rate is about 10 percent, even with extensive treatment. To learn more about BRCA-mutated breast cancer, click here.
In order to reduce her cancer risk down to a safe level, Emma had a double mastectomy and also had her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed. This is a common procedure for women who have the BRCA-1 abnormality, and is normally sufficient to prevent cancer from developing. However, only a year after the procedure, in 2007, she was diagnosed with BRCA-mutated breast cancer for the first time. For the next eleven years, Emma would be battled recurring bouts of cancer.