Growing number of healthy Australian women choosing to remove their reproductive organs to reduce cancer risk

Growing number of healthy Australian women choosing to remove their reproductive organs to reduce cancer risk

Growing number of healthy Australian women choosing to remove their reproductive organs to reduce cancer risk

Updated 6 February 2018, 16:50 AEDT

Eloise Babos always wanted children but a genetic condition has sped up her plans and put her on track to remove her ovaries by her early 30s.

Eloise Babos is a healthy 28-year-old from West Melbourne.

She has always hoped to have children one day. But because of a genetic condition, that day will come sooner than she planned.

Ms Babos' mother Raina Babos fought breast cancer three times. After her third diagnosis she underwent genetic testing which uncovered the BRCA1 gene mutation.

People with a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation are at an increased risk of ovarian, breast and prostate cancers.

In 2013, Ms Babos and her sister discovered that they too carried the mutation.

She decided to have a double mastectomy, only for her mother to die from breast cancer in May 2015.

Still facing a 60 per cent chance of getting ovarian cancer, Ms Babos has made the decision to have her ovaries removed once she and her partner Anton have children.

Doctors have encouraged the young couple to begin IVF treatment as soon as possible using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) testing.

PGD testing takes a cell from a five-day-old embryo to test it for genetic variations before transferring it to a woman.

Not all embryos carry the faulty gene, so embryos with the mutation can be identified and offer some comfort to parents that they will not pass it on.

Ms Babos, a community ambassador for breast and ovarian cancer support organisation Pink Hope, said she wanted to take away the risk of passing the deadly condition onto her children.

She and her partner plan to have two children close together so they can have the family they want by her early 30s before the risk of cancer gets even higher.

"I know they can be affected by a lot of other different things, but if this is one thing [we] can control, then we will," Ms Babos said.

Surgery referrals rising

Specialists at The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne say a growing awareness of the risks of genetic mutation has led to a five-fold increase in the number of healthy women with a family link to cancer choosing to remove their reproductive organs.

Gynaecology Oncology director Orla McNally said in the past two financial years, just over 200 women had been referred for consideration of risk reduction surgery.

Fertility expert Kate Stern said the option to reduce the risk gives "women and their family more power". But it does not come without problems.

The downside is losing, or reducing, a woman's chance to have children.

Removing the ovaries also stops natural hormone production and brings on early menopause.

Professor Stern said ovarian cancer was hard to predict early and the only way of guaranteeing a positive outcome was to have preventative surgery and remove the organs.