H-SANTA MARIA

May 15, 2013 1:28 AM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Jolie's double mastectomy was right for her, but not for everyone, says local breast cancer surgeon

Angelina Jolie is generating a lot of talk today, but it's not for a new film or for one of her humanitarian works, this time, it relates to breast cancer. The Academy Award winning actress announced in a self-penned op-ed article in the New York Times on Monday night, that she has undergone a preventative double mastectomy. She said in the article that the surgery has decreased her chances of developing breast cancer from 87% to less than 5%.

Jolie said she tested positive for the genetic mutation BRCA1, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Jolie's mother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56, so there is family history.

Doctor Monica Rocco, the Surgical Director for the Cancer Care Services at Mission Hope Cancer Center, said Jolie's announcement could be powerful to women.

"Education is always a good thing," she said.

But Dr. Rocco said Jolie's decision to have a preventative double mastectomy is not the best option for everyone who is tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Dr. Rocco stated, "I would never across the board say that if you're genetically positive, you need to have your breasts off."

She said there are factors to decide if a woman should get tested for the BRCA1 gene. That includes if there is a very strong family history of breast cancer, any kind of family history of ovarian cancer, if a male in the family has ever had breast cancer, of the Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, or was adopted and doesn't know their genetic history.

Dr. Rocco said about the test, "It is a very expensive test, it's about $3,200. Insurance companies will not readily pay for it. Basically the rule I use is, if I can look at the risk factors and the insurances can figure out if there's about 10% or higher risk that you're going to be positive, then they will pay for it."

Dr. Rocco said many women may opt to remove both breasts if the genetic mutation test for BRCA1 or BRCA2 comes out positive.

"Yes [getting a double mastectomy] does lower your risk of getting breast cancer. But, it does not lower it to zero," she said.

She said there are other options available too, for women who do test positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2, like keeping a close eye on the breasts through examinations like mammograms.

Jolie said in her New York Times article that she decided to write about her surgery now, with the hopes that other women can benefit from her experience.

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer takes more than 450,000 lives per year.

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