Has Angelina’s brave revelation about her double mastectomy made you wonder if YOU are at risk of getting breast cancer? Here, top breast cancer experts explain what you need to know.
Angelina Jolie‘s courageous editorial in the New York Times about her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy has many women asking if they are also at risk of breast cancer. And asking themselves if they might be candidates for preventative mastectomies as well. Read on for the info you need.
Breast & Ovarian Cancer: The Scary Truth
Two hundred and thirty-two thousand women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. every year and sadly 40,000 still die. One in eight women in the U.S. will get breast cancer during their lives.
The good news is that more women are cured of breast cancer today than ever before, thanks to new treatments and preventative measures like the double mastectomy that Angelina elected to undergo.
However, as she pointed out in her editorial, only about five to ten percent of all breast cancers and one in seven cases of ovarian cancers, are caused by the “faulty” gene that Angelina inherited.
In fact, there are two faulty genes — BRCA1 (which Angelina has) and BRCA2, which can make you highly likely to get breast or ovarian cancer or both.
Both of these genes are tumor suppressors but when they are faulty, like the one that Angelina inherited, they don’t perform properly and therefore don’t suppress breast and ovarian cancer as they should, according to the National Cancer Institute.
That’s why Angelina said she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a fifty per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer. If you are one of those women like Angelina, who carries a faulty gene, should you also get a double mastectomy? Here’s what you need to know, says the experts:
Do You Have A Faulty Breast/Ovarian Cancer Gene?
Jessica Heinzmann, a certified genetic counselor with the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in New Jersey, tells HollywoodLife.com about the red flags for hereditary breast or ovarian cancer that you should look for:
— Do you have female relatives who have had breast cancer?
— Have any of these women contracted the disease at an early age, ie. under 50-years-old? Even if you have just one female relative who has contracted breast cancer at an early age, you could have inherited the faulty gene.
— Have any of your female relatives had ovarian cancer?
— Has any man in your family been diagnosed with breast cancer?
— Is there a history of pancreatic cancer in your family?
— Is your background Ashkenazi Jewish and you have female relatives who have had breast cancer?
If you have any of these red flags, it would make good sense to have a genetic test.
You can ask your doctor or gynecologist to arrange for you to be tested.
As for ovarian cancer, Jessica explains that it is harder to detect in preventative screenings than breast cancer. It is also a more difficult cancer to treat successfully.
— If you have one of the BRCA genes, the recommendation is to have your own ovaries and fallopian tubes removed between the ages of 35 and 40, or to have them removed when you have finished having children.
— This will also reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer to under five percent, and Jessica guesses that Angelina will have this surgery too, since her mother died of ovarian cancer. “Our national guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network would advise her to do this,” she says.
If members of your family have already been tested for these genes, it should cost $475. If not, the cost could be $4,000 but there are programs you can access for financial assistance to cover the program.
FYI, both of Angelina’s biological daughters, Shiloh and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, will be candidates to be genetically tested for the BRCA1 gene when they are 18.
Will Insurance Cover The Cost Of Preventative Mastectomies & Reconstructive Surgery?
Yes, says Jessica. Most insurance companies will cover this cost.
If I don’t have the faulty gene, what’s my risk of having breast cancer?
One in eight women in the U.S. will be stricken with breast cancer at some point in their lives, and most do not have the faulty gene. But, there is good news!
Thanks to the efforts of organizations like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, created by Evelyn Lauder, there are so many more excellent treatments for breast cancer.
“We want to put breast cancer out of the business,” explains Myra Biblowit, President of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The $440 million that has been raised by the foundation has been almost entirely spent on funding 197 researchers in thirteen countries, who are focused solely on treatments and cures for breast cancer. Ninety-one cents out of every dollar raised goes directly to research for treatments and cures.
“Doctors used to throw the same toxic cocktail at every woman with breast cancer. Now we know that treatments need to be personalized, and doctors use targeted therapies for every woman so they have a greater chance of curing their cancer or turning it into a manageable disease,” explains Myra.
Myra has great admiration for Angelina’s actions. “She will embolden women to be proactive if they have one of the BRCA genes. They can see that if she can do it, I can do it,” says Myra. “They can ask themselves if they would rather face breast cancer or face recovering from a surgery that has no risks. If they decide to have the preventative surgery ( at a time that is appropriate for them) they can remove this terror from hanging over their heads.”
So, HollywoodLifers – if you have any of the red flags for Angelina’s faulty gene, please discuss your situation with your doctor, and if you don’t, follow your doctor’s advice on breast self-examination and mammograms and know that breast cancer treatments are improving all the time, thanks to organizations like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
We hope this has been helpful, HollywoodLifers!
– Bonnie Fuller
More Angelina Jolie Mastectomy News:
- Angelina Jolie Had Breast Cancer Gene — She Put Kids First & Had Preventative Double Mastectomy
- Angelina Jolie’s Double Mastectomy — Angelina Reveals She Had Surgery To Prevent Breast Cancer
- Angelina Jolie Breast Cancer Risk — Celebs React To Preventative Double Mastectomy