Breast cancer genetic testing and preventative mastectomy - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Breast cancer genetic testing and preventative mastectomy: Who is it right for?

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(AP Photo/Joel Ryan, File). FILE - Actress Angelina Jolie arrives for the British Gala premiere for the film 'Salt', at a central London cinema, in this Aug. 16, 2010 file photo. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, File). FILE - Actress Angelina Jolie arrives for the British Gala premiere for the film 'Salt', at a central London cinema, in this Aug. 16, 2010 file photo.
Janelle MacDonald undergoing testing in 2010. Janelle MacDonald undergoing testing in 2010.
Dr. Anthony Dragun Dr. Anthony Dragun

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Actress Angelina Jolie revealed Tuesday a personal decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy after learning she carried the genetic mutation that increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It's a deeply personal decision thousands of women face every year, whether to undergo the genetic testing and what to do if the results come back positive.

Tuesday, a leading doctor at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center talked about the "Jolie effect."

"People are going to start asking themselves, 'What's my risk?'" said Dr. Anthony Dragun, Co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the center.

He said the high-profile, high-star power discussion sparked by Jolie can sometimes lead the rest of us down a path we don't need to walk.

"A lot of times people will take her story and apply it to themselves whether they've had cancer or not had cancer," he said.

Dragun said the reality is only some people at a higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer should consider testing in the first place and only about 15 to 20 percent of the people tested come back positive for carrying the gene.

"I tend to try to counsel patients through this process in positive way, look at the odds of being in your favor," he said.

Three years ago, I shared with you my story of my decision to undergo testing at the suggestion of my doctor because of my mother's diagnosis and death from breast cancer in her early 40s. My test came back negative for the BRCA mutation, but Dragun said even in the event of a positive test, preventative surgery like Jolie's is not the best option for everyone.

He said it is the most extreme treatment option, but others include the use of cancer fighting drugs or increased annual or bi-annual screenings.

Dragun added, a preventative double mastectomy does nothing to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer also indicated by the genetic test, which is less common but more deadly because it's often caught later.

Dragun said shortly after actress Christina Applegate announced her double mastectomy after a cancer diagnosis and a positive genetic test in 2008, doctors across the country saw an increase in the number of women asking about doing the same. He expects to see the same thing after Jolie's announcement.

He encourages anyone who is considering genetic testing in the Louisville area to call the Brown Cancer Center to be connected to a nurse navigator. That number is (502) 562 4673.

Click here for a look at the position statement from the Society of Surgical Oncology on preventative mastectomy.

Click here for guidance and more information from the Susan G. Komen Foundation on genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer.

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