A rare genetically-linked cancer that strikes fewer than 100 families world-wide has led members of three of the families, all located in Newfoundland and Labrador, to have their stomachs removed.

Geralyn Hansford of St. John's inherited the rare gene, giving her a 70 per cent chance of developing stomach cancer. In order to prevent the cancer from developing, she had her stomach surgically removed five years ago.


Geralyn Hansford had her stomach removed to prevent contracting a rare type of stomach cancer. (CBC)

The cancer is hard to detect and once it has been detected, it is often too late to save the person affected.

Hansford's sister, Arlene Gosse, died of the cancer ten years ago. Before she passed away, she urged her family to do whatever they could to find out more about the cancer, and to protect themselves. Hansford said that was why she decided have her stomach removed.

Placentia Bay families affected

The families all have roots in the former communities on Merasheen Island in Placentia Bay.

"There's probably over 160 people in our family alone who have been tested, and over 40 of our family members, immediate and extended, have had their stomachs removed,"  confirmed Lorraine Ennis.


Lorraine Ennis also carries the stomach cancer gene, and she has also had her stomach removed. (CBC )

Ennis belongs to the same extended family as Hansford, and she carries the same gene. She, too, has had her stomach removed. 

But unlike Hansford, whose body adapted well after her surgery, Ennis has had a more difficult time of living without a stomach.

She must avoid fast food and alcohol, and she must eat many small meals throughout the day. Whenever she eats something that doesn't agree with her, she experiences a lot of discomfort.

But Ennis said her situation has still been better than waging a losing battle against stomach cancer. 

No cure

Researchers have yet to find a cure for the cancer that affects Ennis and Hansford's family.

Hansford said her late sister's advice, to do what they have to in order to prevent the cancer, still stands.

Hansford said she'd prefer to still have a stomach, but living without one is the better alternative for her.

"I think for me the biggest thing is, I am not scared anymore," said Hansford.