A lottery of life: How a routine test changed a woman’s life

When Antonia Heffernan decided to get tested for cancer at the urging of a relative, she learned to her dismay that she carried the BRCA gene, which brings an 85 per cent chance of getting breast cancer

Antonia Heffernan opted for a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) after she discovered that she had the BRCA gene. Picture: Bryan Meade

We all have traits we’ve inherited from our parents – height, eye colour, even mannerisms. They set us apart and remind us that we belong to a certain family group. While many of these attributes are welcome, however, there is one nobody would want: a gene mutation that puts you at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Thanks to celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, most people have at least heard of the BRCA gene. The ...