Actress Angelina Jolie announced today that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy after finding out that she had the “breast cancer gene.” Jolie’s mother died of breast cancer at age 57.
Preventative or prophylactic mastectomy—the removal of breast tissue—may be one of several options available to women who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, explains Kristin L. Brill, MD, Program Director, The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at Cooper Cancer Institute. “A woman’s risk may be increased if she has a strong family history of breast cancer, especially in first-degree relatives diagnosed before the age of 50,” says Brill. She says that prophylactic mastectomy may offer a 90 percent reduction in risk for developing breast cancer for women who are deemed at higher risk. Prophylactic mastectomy typically is performed with simultaneous or “immediate” breast reconstruction surgery, says Brill.
Blood tests to identify genetic markers are available for breast and ovarian cancer, and for colorectal, endometrial and other gastrointestinal cancers. However, cancer risk education and assessment is the first step in identifying the right path for each person and can be done with or without genetic testing.
Be proactive with your health. To make an appointment or get more information about Cooper’s Cancer Genetics Program, call 856-968-7322. To schedule a screening mammogram, call 1.800.8COOPER (1.800.826.6737).
Hear about one family’s battle with breast cancer and the decisions the women in their family made to pursue genetic testing for cancer in this video.