BAKERSFIELD, CA - Instead of a bold move on the red carpet, actress Angelina Jolie stunned audiences by announcing in the New York Times she had a double mastectomy. She says she made the decision after doctors found she has one of the breast cancer genes. It's a drastic decision more women are making to prevent breast cancer- including Janie Olvera of Bakersfield.
"I said I want it done," said Olvera of the preventative surgery. She had the procedure performed in 2006 after doctors discovered her 28-year-old niece had breast cancer.
"The doctors wanted her to get us together and do the gene test because it was not normal for someone that young to get breast cancer," said Olvera.
Janie tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene, increasing her risk of breast cancer by almost 90 percent. And, five of Janie's eleven siblings' tests also came back positive. Two months after learning the results, Janie had a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed.
"It's absolutely the right choice because you are literally changing your destiny for getting the cancer," said Dr. Ravi Patel, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center.
He says the tests cost around $3,000. But, insurance companies are willing to help with the costs, and Dr. Patel says it's worth it if there's a medical past.
"If they have a strong family history of breast cancer, particularly in younger individuals, 40, 50 or younger than that, then the risk of breast cancer increases substantially," said Dr. Patel.
Dr. Oscar Streeter Junior at the AIS Cancer Center at San Joaquin Hospital believes genetic counseling should come before the BRCA gene tests.
"Absolutely, that would be the appropriate next step," said Dr. Streeter.
Dr. Streeter added preventative surgery can greatly decrease the cancer risk if it's positive.
"We also know we can reduce the breast cancer risk by 95 percent by taking the ovaries out as well. And, we know associated with this BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene that there's a higher risk of ovarian cancer. So, if you take the ovaries out there's 100 percent reduction in ovarian cancer," said Dr. Streeter.
While Janie knows there's still a chance of cancer in her future, she's happy she has one.
"Body parts to me are are just body parts. It's like I lost a finger or a an arm, you know. I am who I am because I'm here, not because I have, you know, my legs or my breasts or ovaries. It's because I'm here," said Janie.
Dr. Streeter says the BRCA 1 and 2 genes are in five to ten percent of American women. Janie says her two daughters, in their early 30s, were tested. One was positive for the gene and she plans to have the preventative surgery.