Genetic testing helps women stay proactive with breast cancer
The controversy over Angelina Jolie's announcement this week about having her double mastectomy after learning that she could be at an 87-percent higher risk for developing breast cancer, has sparked questions on how she made her drastic decision to undergo surgery.
The 37-year-old actress had testing done for the genetic mutation BRCA1 and BRCA2. The testing is not for everyone, and doctors say that it's important to remember that not everyone that comes back with a positive test will develop breast cancer.
"What it means is that she is at a significantly increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer when you compare that to the average population risk," said Oncology Nurse Practitioner for Munson Cancer Genetics Clinic, Christa Kiessel.
Kiessel says that she sees two types of patients sit down at her desk; patients that have already had breast cancer, and those that have a very strong family history of the same type of cancer.
Patients that are at a significant risk can have the testing done for the genetic mutation. A mutation that can mean different things for each woman.
"Anybody with BRCA mutation has a risk," said Kiessel. "The range of risk based on the studies they've done is between 45 and 87-percent."
Doctors can't give specifics on each woman's personal risk factor, but they can help with the choices that a woman has to help reduce her risk for breast cancer.
"Most of the time, women that have dealt with the emotional, difficult experience of losing a close loved one to breast cancer are the ones that decide that preventative surgery might be the best option for them" said Kiessel.
Surgery is only one option. Kiessel says that consistent screening for mammograms, and medication to help reduce the risk are other choices women have who show positive results for BRCA.
"It's really important for women to know that they do have options," said Kiessel. "The decision they make has to be right for them."