Three siblings have had their stomachs removed after testing positive for a rare cancer gene which killed their sister and mum.
Tahir Khan, 44, Sophia Ahmed, 39, and Omar Khan, 27, lost their mother, Pearl Khan, 49, in 2002 and their 32-year-old sister Yasmin Khan in 2013 to stomach cancer.
They decided to get screened and tested for the gene at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge over the last year and were shocked to discover they all carried the same gene mutation known as CDH1, which can cause aggressive stomach tumors.
The siblings, who all live in Walsall, West Midlands, opted to have full gastrectomies to avoid developing the deadly disease.
Mum-of-five Sophia, who runs a soft play centre with husband Fayyaz, 38, said: "In 2002 mum got very sick with stomach cancer and passed away in August.
"She was originally tested for IBS but was then diagnosed with stomach cancer and passed away shortly afterwards.
"In October 2009 my sister was going to the doctors again with IBS but again was eventually diagnosed in December 2010. She had chemotherapy but died in February 2012.
"I read in Yasmin’s notes in hospital that they thought it may be genetic so I did some research and found out the hospital in Cambridge was doing a study with Cancer Research so I contacted them and went from there.
"Everyone thought I was mad until we had the results come back and when we saw it was three of us out of the four, I knew it was worth it.
"I have nothing but positive things to say about it, I can still eat and do everything, the only issue is maintaining my weight and my vitamin deficiencies but in comparison to having stomach cancer and a few years to live, I can’t complain.
"I even had a baby after the operation, they thought I might be malnourished or the baby would be tiny, but everything was absolutely fine."
Delivery driver Tahir, whose 21-year-old daughter Farah has also tested positive, said:
"At the age where I was diagnosed there was a 90 per cent likelihood that the cancer would develop.
"I watched my mum and sister wither away and I really did not want to put the family through that.
"They said I effectively had cancer but because it was contained in my stomach lining and I had all that removed, it eliminated it.
"I could have had only days, weeks, maybe a year maximum left before I would have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that having the tests and the procedure done saved my life.
"I am worried about my daughter’s future, but I say to her we have all gone through it and are fine now, so whatever happens she’ll be OK."
Office worker Omar said: "It was a really hard decision for me but it was the best one I’ve ever made.
"I still can eat whatever I like – burgers, steaks – the only thing I get is exhaustion and cold sweats but I’m still breathing and I’m so thankful for that."
Any food goes into a small pouch that was made by connecting the oesophagus to the intestine.
Their other sister, Tracy Ismail, 49, came back negative so did not have the surgery.
Dr Marc Tischkowitz, consultant physician in medical genetics at the University of Cambridge, said: "This is a very rare, specific type of stomach cancer.
"It’s a gene that carriers can have for their lifetime and means that they are at risk of developing cancer any time.
"We do offer total removal of the stomach as a preventative measure.
"It is a dramatic life-changing procedure and of course there is no way of knowing in all cases that the person who carries the gene will 100 per cent have developed cancer in their lifetime."
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