Let's Discuss: If Your Cancer Risk Were High, Would You Get a Double Mastectomy?

Actress Angelina Jolie announced today via an op ed in the “New York Times” that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy and breast reconstruction after a blood test found that she had a “faulty” BRCA1 gene, which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In Jolie’s case, the risk was an 87 percent chance of breast cancer and 50 percent chance of ovarian cancer. Jolie’s mother died of breast cancer at age 56.

Let's Discuss: If Your Cancer Risk Were High, Would You Get a Double Mastectomy?

“I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy,” Jolie said in the article. “But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”

If a test found that you had a high risk for breast cancer, would you have a double mastectomy like Angelina Jolie? How has breast cancer affected your family?

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Comments

Lydia Light
344 days ago

If by her coming out and sharing her story it encourages just one person to bite the bullet and be tested then it was worth it. Yes she can afford it when others can not. Not sure what that has to do with anything. I can afford to do things like buy a car, pay a mortgage and put food on the table when others cannot, that doesn't stop me doing them it just makes me thankful I'm lucky enough to be in the position that I can. She is in a position where others respect, admire and look up to her. Good on her for using that power to spread this message and encourage other women to get tested. Anything that removes the stigma’s and gets us supporting each other in times of need is a good thing

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Patricia Gebbia
344 days ago

I am a little annoyed that they are making Angelina Jolie seem like the first person who has ever done the prophylactic mastectomy. My best friend opted to do this last year. She doesn't even have the gene, but her mother died of breast cancer and every elder women in her family had a bout with breast cancer, so rather than spend her life worrying she decided to have a double mastectomy. Her doctor has performed many she is one of the best breast surgeons on Long Island. So I feel it belittles the bravery of those who came before her just because she is a celebrity. Big Deal - she will have plenty of paid help. My best friend had to do it on her own so if anyone should be on the news its her not Angelina Jolie!!!!

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Pamela
345 days ago

Hmm this is a tough one because first I have no medical coverage and I have no children. Normally my response would be just let it run its course, it's not like we are supposed to live forever. But breast cancer isn't a nice quiet cancer that lays low while spreading to other parts of your body. From what I understand from my mother a retired nurse, breast cancer untreated can form abscesses that burst and are quite nasty.
I should probably add that I am a traumatic brain injury survivor, so every day is a struggle to live. I'm hoping that my family history of heart disease is what will take me out if I had a choice. If I knew then what I know now if someone asked me when I was in a coma if I wanted to wake up or not, I would have chosen the later. Waking up 30 years ago was really painful and continues to be.

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Marie
345 days ago

I think it is much easier to decide on a double mastectomy and reconstruction than an double ovarectomy. Removing both ovaries brings on menopause. Hormone replacement is available but I think it's a harder choice to make.

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Arlene
345 days ago

My sister was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer last year at age 30. She did not have the BRCAI gene. If she did, I would have had a mastectomy and had my ovaries taken out. Ovarian cancer is much harder to detect and has a very low survival rate. If I were Angelina I would have had a hysterectomy as well.

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Julie
345 days ago

Lucky she has the money to do it. Most women don't. Most women don't have the money to have genetic testing done. And insurance won't cover such a thing. Good for her that she can do it. Just saying that it's not even an option for most other women.

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megan
345 days ago

After my aunt (non-blood relative) had gone through breast cancer a 2nd time, my cousin, her aunt , and 2 cousins were all tested for thr BRCA1 gene. They all came back back positive. My cousin's cousin had died young from breast cancer, her grandmother had died young (when my aunt was still a child) from it. The list goes on. My cousin already had two sons with her hsband at that point. He said, "I just want you here raising these kids with me, so if this helps, let's do it." She had her ovaries removed first and then had her elective double mastectomy. Years later, in 2010, my aunt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she fought a long, hard, sad battle until the very end. She passed recently, 12/30/12. We were told there is a connection between the BRCA1 gene and pancreatic cancer as well, so if you have it, please be sure your doctor does some sort of screening - CT scan, MRI, colonoscopy, endoscopy etc. My aunt's was caught too late to actually "cure" it. Knowing now, though, my cousin is on a regiment of alternating endoscopies and MRIs.

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Mary
345 days ago

I, too, carry the same mutation as Angelina Jolie, and was given the same odds. At the time, I was a single mother, raising a four-year-old. My reaction to the news was surprisingly business-like. I told my doctor, "Well, this is my reality, and now I need to do something about it." I had a double mastectomy with expanders and ultimately implants and nipple skin graft, a total hysterectomy, and multiple revision procedures. I remember asking my doctor (semi-joking,) "When I am all through with this, will I still be a woman?" She looked at me, dead serious, and said, "Yes, Yes, you will be."

She was right. Two years later, I love my "foobs," and happily receive monthly estradial injections in each tush cheek. My doctors and nurses have become my friends, and I credit them with saving my life. As one said, "You dodged a bullet."

Today, I'm empowered and so full of gratitude for modern medicine. I did this on my terms, not cancer's.

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Marie
345 days ago

Better question: Could you afford to get a preventative double mastectomy? Most insurance will not cover the test so if you can't afford that you don't know whether you have the dna marker. If you do pay for the test, can you afford the procedure? How much does this course of treatment cost? Look into the type of insurance that covers, what they cover and what the average cost is for testing, mastectomy and reconstruction.

Then determine what percent of the population is even in the income bracket that can afford it. It's a non issue. This is not an option for the majority of American women.

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Faith
345 days ago

My mom died last year from complications that arose during treatment of breast cancer. For almost three years she beat the odds time and time again, amazing all of the doctors that treated her. They had given her a prognosis of only a year, but she lasted 3. Because she was on Medicaid, they wouldn't test her for the BRCA gene. She insisted I get tested since we have a strong family history of breast cancer. Unfortunately, the Army health insurance denied the request from the geneticist because the test is too costly. At 33 I have already had one scare, and I'm sure will have more to come. If given the opportunity to get tested, I would do the same thing Angelina Jolie did. I have thought about it for a long time. I have nursed my children, and don't really need my originals, so why not exchange them. :)

I hope no one reads into my response and think I'm being flippant. With the advances of modern medicine I just feel like there are alternatives to how we seek out solutions.

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trish
345 days ago

It's her decision. She is lucky enough to afford the best health care money can buy. I'm happy she made her decision public -- maybe it will help someone else considering this option to make the same choice. God Bless Angelina, and her family.

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brooke
345 days ago

I was lucky enough like Jolie to find out that I to was BRCA 1 positive. I elected to have the double mastectomy and a complete hysterectomy. A five hour surgery. I feel like I won the lottery... who gets to jump ahead and beat the cancer before it gets you? Feeling blessed although, My mother has the same gene and she is fighting for her life. My mother gave me the greatest gift of my life this BRCA testing. Who knows when the cancer would of crept in my life with 89% chance to get breast cancer and 50% chance to get ovarian there was no decision in my mind that I made the right decision!

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Wendy A.
345 days ago

I admire Angelina Jolie so much. What a brave woman! My mother died at the age of 49 from breast cancer. My aunt beat breast cancer and so did my cousin. Several other family members have passed away from various types of cancer, including my father at age 74. As I approach the age when my mother passed away (I am 44) it becomes more and more important to me to lead a very healthy lifestyle and get regular examinations. I really don't know what my answer would be if a doctor suggested a double mastectomy as a preventative measure. How scary. But not nearly as scary as the idea of cancer.

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