Jolie's mastectomy decision one option for cancer prevention - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Jolie's mastectomy decision is one option for breast cancer prevention


MADISON (WKOW) -- A life-changing decision actress Angelina Jolie made is getting a lot of attention from people concerned about their risk of cancer.

Jolie revealed in a New York Times op-ed article that she had preventative double mastectomy surgery to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer. Jolie's mother died young of breast cancer, and passed on a gene that increases her daughter's risk of developing cancer.

Only about 5 percent of people with breast cancer carry the gene, but for those with family history, knowing they have the gene can make all the difference when it comes to prevention.

Oncologist Dr. Kari Wisinski, with UW's Department of Medicine, says a double mastectomy reduces the risk of developing cancer by 90-95 percent, but it's not the only preventative option for those with the gene mutation.

"MRI is used often in addition to mammography in women who have these genetic mutations, to help them screen or proactively look at whether or not they're at risk or developing breast cancer," Wisinski says.

More frequent screenings, starting at a young age, likely would mean an earlier diagnosis with more treatment options and a better prognosis. Some medications can also cut the risk of developing certain types of cancer in half.

Doctors say you should consider getting the genetic test if you have multiple relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, especially if they were diagnosed at a young age. Even young diagnoses of pancreatic or prostate cancer could be a sign as well.

If you have cancer in your family, Wisinski says it's important to talk to your doctor about your family history to determine whether a genetic test is needed. Also, you should keep in touch with family on both your mother and father's side to learn specifics about any cancer in the family and the ages of the family members diagnosed.

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