There is a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer, but that’s for the average woman. Women who have inherited a “mutated gene” or the BRCA gene are five times more likely to be diagnosed. Tuesday, movie star Angelina Jolie announced she tested positive for the gene, and chose to undergo a preventive double mastectomy.
“I just think it brings it more to the forefront. For those women who may be more on the fence as to what they want to do, what they don’t want to do, and those that judge women for making the decision, it makes them realize that this isn’t something crazy, this isn’t just an absolutely weird thing to think of doing- removing healthy breasts. It’s something to help maintain their life and maintain a very healthy life by doing these more aggressive radical surgeries as well,” said Pati Berger, a nurse and genetic coordinator at John Stoddard.
Three Iowa are sisters faced with that same decision.
Kristin Glick knows how many people ask questions and have doubts when it comes to having a mastectomy before cancer is diagnosed. She used to be one of them. But that was before she and her two sisters tested positive for the BRCA gene, putting each of them at an 85 percent risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was kind of a shock at first. I think we were all kind of, didn`t really know what to do with that information,” said Sarah Havick. She remembers a similar shock when they found out their mom had breast cancer, only this time they have options.
“I wouldn`t want to put my family through the chemo. I saw what my mom went through with that and I don`t want to go through that,” said Havick.
By choosing to have a preventative mastectomy, it significantly reduces the risk.
“If you had an 80 percent risk your plane was going to go down, would you get on that plane? That`s the same with the surgeries. The risk is so high. To just take care of that risk and not have to worry about it for the rest of our lives that what we`re comfortable with,” said Glick.
Nurses who work with women like Sarah and Kristin on a daily basis say it’s still not an easy choice.
“Not only is it a long recovery time in some cases but emotional too you are dealing with the loss of your breasts, and there are a lot of different emotions women feel when it comes to losing such a female organ, female defining organ,” said Anne Heun, a Genetic Councilor at John Stoddard Cancer Treatment Center.
“You don`t know until you’re in that position. To me, I have a four year old and a two year old and one on the way, and I want to be there for them forever. I don`t want to miss anything,” said Havick, “It`s a no brainer for me.”