Breast cancer is far too common in Australia and sadly, over 20,420 women are diagnosed every year. That is one woman receiving a breast cancer diagnosis every 26 minutes.
Breast cancer comes from cells within the breast that accumulate changes in the DNA, which make them grow in an uncontrolled manner. These cells typically grow in the breast ducts, which normally transport milk to the nipple. The cancer begins as a small, confined tumour, but can grow and spread throughout the breast.
Because of a family experience with cancer, two remarkable sisters in Ellie Rogers and Lisa Bardas, have committed themselves to making a positive difference to the lives of women with breast cancer.
Ellie was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer when she was just 38 years old. Her sister Lisa was there by her side to support her in her journey. The sisters shortly later received further news that they both carried a breast cancer gene mutation known as BRCA1, which caused them immense psychological and emotional distress.
Women who carry a faulty BRCA1 gene have a 70% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer.
“After my diagnosis I was in shock. I remember feeling my world had been turned upside down. I felt completely alone.”
Ellie and Lisa have experienced a family history of cancer as their mother had fought pseudomyxoma, a very rare cancer, for over 14 years. She unfortunately passed away at age 52.
“If Ellie and I had been tested when Mum died, we would have known sooner that we are BRCA gene mutation carriers. We probably would have both had the preventative surgeries earlier and Ellie’s breast cancer diagnosis may never have happened – ever.” Lisa shares.
In response to their lived health experiences, Lisa and Ellie created the Two Sisters Foundation, to educate and empower others facing similar ordeals, and raise funds for medical research to change the cancer story for women now and for future generations.
“We are supporting WEHI researchers, via the Two Sisters Foundation, to find new approaches to prevent and treat breast cancer. We want to save the next generation, our daughters and sons, so they don’t have to endure the high-risk surgeries, that we only went through with because that was the best treatment available to us,” Ellie continues.
“WEHI’s breast cancer team is leading the field in BRCA research. My sister and I created the Two Sisters Foundation to raise enough funds so WEHI researchers can translate their powerful work into better health outcomes for breast cancer patients.”
Following her breast cancer diagnosis, Ellie underwent gruelling surgery and treatment to remove her cancer and to prevent it from coming back.
She endured four months of chemotherapy, followed by additional operations to remove her uterus and fallopian tubes, and a double mastectomy to remove both breasts – to reduce the risk that her cancer could return.
Ellie’s sister, Lisa, couldn’t believe their family was dealing with cancer for a second time. “My biggest fear after hearing Ellie’s diagnosis was that I would lose my best friend, my sister, my whole world.”
“If Ellie and I had been tested when Mum died, we would have known sooner that we are BRCA gene mutation carriers. We probably would have both had the preventative surgeries earlier and Ellie’s breast cancer diagnosis may never have happened – ever.”
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