Wendy Watson MBE

Wendy Watson MBE

Wendy Watson, MBE

  • Founder of the Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline and Breast Cancer Awareness Week
  • Dedicated campaigner and advocate for hereditary breast cancer awareness

Wendy Watson, a dedicated campaigner, influential figure, and passionate advocate for genetic testing in hereditary breast cancer has worked tirelessly to help others, lobbying for changes that have transformed healthcare for those affected by hereditary breast cancer across the UK.

Wendy’s story

Following her mother's tragic loss to breast cancer, Wendy made a startling revelation: nine of her relatives had also battled this cruel disease. This discovery led Wendy to question whether this was merely coincidental. While the standard approach at the time was monitoring and a daunting wait, Wendy believed there had to be a more proactive solution.

Wendy courageously became the first person in the UK to undergo a preventive double mastectomy—a procedure that was controversial at the time due to uncertainty about genetic risk factors and hereditary links.

Wendy was proved correct when she later learned she carried an alteration in the BRCA1 gene, a gene change that significantly increased her lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. We all carry these genes - but a mutation stops them from doing their job of preventing breast cancer. In 2004, her daughter, Becky, followed in her mother's footsteps, opting for a preventive double mastectomy after learning that the BRCA1 gene is associated with up to an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

 

Campaign and influence

Wendy harnessed her formidable logic and reasoning to advocate for legislative changes and improved care for those affected by hereditary breast cancer. She spearheaded dedicated campaigns, including the establishment of her own record and theatre company, making appearances in national media, and sharing her story in an engaging and relatable manner.

In 1996, Health Minister Baroness Cumberlege invited Wendy to establish the Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline, which became a lifeline for many. Today, it continues to lead numerous campaigns, spreading awareness and education across the country.

Wendy continues to work tirelessly to improve the experience of those facing the uncertainty of hereditary breast cancer. Amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wendy held twice-weekly online Q&A sessions and founded the Tamoxifen and Side Effects support group, which continues to receive around 4 to 5 daily membership requests.

Mother and daughter – Breast of friends

Wendy and her daughter duo share their incredible story with a healthy dose of humour in an innovative podcast 'Mother and Daughter BREAST of Friends. Listeners can access the episodes on the podcast's website, www.motherdaughterbreastfriends.co.uk.

Last updated: October 17, 2023.

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