POQUOSON, Va. (WAVY) - A Poquoson woman who had a preventative double mastectomy is applauding actress Angelina Jolie's decision to share her experience with the world.
10 On Your Side was with Rose West six years ago as she went through the procedure. She felt it important then to educate and empower women by sharing her story. Both of her sisters, her father and a nephew died from breast cancer and she tested positive for the BRAC 2 gene.
That put her in the same category with actress Angelina Jolie, with an 85 percent risk of developing the disease.
"It's very plosive," West said of Jolie's publicity. "If there's a negative, it might be if its seen as something that is extreme that only celebrities do."
Local breast centers are finding that to be to the contrary. Dr. Jason Wilson, a Sentara Breast Surgeon said "More and more people are opting to have bilateral mastectomies just because they don't want to have to think about it."
Dr. Wilson cautions however, the number of women who would even be considered for such a preventative procedure is low.
"If you look at breast cancer in general it effects 1 in 9 women nationally, only about 5 percent to 10 percent are related to genetics."
It is a very small number, but for women like Angelina Jolie and Rose West the pay off is big. Surgery all but eliminates their chance of developing breast cancer.
So how do you know if you should have genetic testing? There is no current standard for recommending the test but, ask yourself these questions:
- Have two or more members of my immediate family been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50?
- Have any men in my family been diagnosed with breast cancer?
- Has anyone in my family been diagnosed with cancer in both breasts?
If the answer to any of these is yes call and talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor.
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