Local doctors talk about preventative double mastectomy

Posted at: 05/14/2013 7:56 PM
Updated at: 05/15/2013 9:10 AM
By: Lia Lando

Shocking news from one of Hollywood's hottest actresses as Angelina Jolie reveals she had a preventative double mastectomy. This is a story that has a lot of women in our area talking, wondering if they should be doing the same.
Jolie says after watching her mother die of cancer at the age of 56, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She underwent genetic testing and learned she carries the BRCA-1 gene, which gave her an 87% chance of getting cancer sometime in her life. In February, the actress underwent surgery to reduce the risk of getting the disease.

All of this is revealed in an OP-ED piece published in the New York Times called, “My Medical Choice." In it, Jolie says, “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could." She goes on to say, “I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness."

Doctor Kristin Skinner is the head of breast surgery at Wilmot Cancer Center says numerous genes are associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.  She says the best thing for women to do is see a specialized doctor who will look into your history and possibly recommend genetic testing. The test itself is done with either a blood test or a check swab or saliva sample.

There are two genes what doctors call the breast and ovarian cancer genes. Those have the highest risk of developing breast cancer, up to 90%. If you find out you are high risk, you do have other options besides removing both breasts.

Dr. Kristen Skinner said, “It's not the only option, it is the most effective way to prevent breast cancer, but there's a difference between developing breast cancer and dying of breast cancer, and so if women are not ready to undergo bilateral mastectomies, they can opt for just high-risk surveillance with the idea being that if they do develop breast cancer, hopefully we can diagnose it very early where it won't impact their longevity. The statistics are that by removing both breasts, you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 96%, but it's important to know 96% of what, so if your risk is only 5% of developing breast cancer, 96% doesn't really make a huge difference in your life. If your risk is 90%, that's a big difference."

Women who do get mastectomies have a choice of what kind of reconstructive surgery they want , either implants or moving tissue from other parts of the body.  Insurance companies do cover the cost of the testing, surgery and reconstruction for women of high-risk.
As far as recovery, she says most women are able to function in as little as four to six weeks.  And, the doctor wants to remind you it's not just women who can get breast cancer. She says less than one in every 100 men is diagnosed with the disease according to the CDC.

News10NBC also talked with Dr. Lori Madeiros from Rochester General Breast Cancer on Roc City Tonight at 7 p.m. The interview with Dr. Madeiros is below.