Celeb surgery heightens cancer gene awareness

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. / Jessica Fairley

Actress Angelina Jolie recently announced she had a double mastectomy after testing positive for gene that could've led to cancer.

After being diagnosed with a BRCA 1 gene mutation, Jolie made a decision that drastically decreased her chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

"She underwent what we call a prophylactic mastectomy bilateral vasectomy where you remove both breasts which reduce her risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent," said Dr. Neil Faulkner, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Faulkner says opting for precautionary surgery is a decision that about half the women he diagnose with the gene choose to take.

He recommends BRCA 1 carriers, both male and female, take measures immediately to reduce their risk of developing cancer, but he says it's not always an easy decision.

"Younger women may be a little more hesitant about getting both breast removed or having their ovaries removed especially if they aren't finished having children," said Dr. Faulkner.

One southwest Georgia woman says although her sister didn't have the BRCA gene, she's living with the scars of breast cancer after having one of her breasts removed 17 years ago.

"She and I went swimming since that happened, so it seemed like somewhat there maybe a little insecurity due to the fact of her having to wear a bathing suit, but my sister is very strong," said Jacquelyn Houston.

Dr. Faulkner says those who choose to opt out of surgery must have routine surveillance, including regular mammograms, MRI's and pelvic exams.

He encourages all women to perform regular breast exams and have regular check-ups.

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