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Friends to mastectomy patient: 'Why would you get your boobs cut off?'

8:03 PM, May 14, 2013   |    comments
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(LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With all the news about Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, women might be wondering, "Should I get tested, too?"

Jolie found out she carries the breast cancer gene (BRCA1) and chose to have both breasts removed.

Mollie Case in Jacksonville had a similar procedure.  

She said people around her thought she was crazy.  

Case was in her 30's and friends asked her, "Why would you get your boobs cut off?"

Mollie said she had a good reason. Her grandmother had breast cancer.

Later her sister, Jennie, was diagnosed as well. 

As sisters, they both decided get genetic testing at Mayo Clinic.  They both tested positive for the breast cancer gene, BRCA1.

Mollie said she didn't think twice about having a double mastectomy.

"I didn't want to wake up every morning and wonder, 'Do I have breast cancer today?'" Mollie said. 

She had nipple-sparing mastectomy surgery, and she's pleased with her decision.

According to Mayo Clinic's Dr. Edith Perez, a breast cancer researcher known around the globe for her work, a prophylactic mastectomy decreases the risk of breast cancer by 90 percent.

Maegan Roberts, a genetic counselor at Mayo, said there are five red flags that you should consider genetic testing.

She said the initial step should be talking with your family to find out if there is any history of cancer. 

Some red flags are:

  • Someone in your family with a breast cancer diagnosis under the age of 50, especially someone who was diagnosed before menopause
  • Three or more cases in your family of breast cancer all on either your mother's or father's side
  • You are of Ashkenazi descent, that is, an Eastern European Jewish heritage
  • You have both breast cancer and ovarian cancer on either side of your family
  • A man in your family has/had breast cancer

If you have any of the red flags, ask for the services of a genetic counselor. Most local hospital staffs are experts in this area.

The first person to be tested in a family should be the person with the cancer, if she or he is still alive, Roberts said.

She said most insurance companies cover the cost of genetic testing, which typically runs $4,000.

There are programs, as well, if you're around the poverty level to defray costs.

But, Robert said, if you don't fit in one of those two groups you're pretty much out of luck to get financial help.

Cindy Hamilton, head of public relations at Baptist Health, suggests these resources about genetic testing:

Websites that are helpful for genetic testing info are:

http://www.facingourrisk.org/

The NCI Breast Cancer Website has a page titled Prevention, Genetics and Causes

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/prevention-genetics-causes/breast

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