Gene Testing Measures Cancer Risk

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STATELINE (WIFR) -- Actress Angelina Jolie says she was forced to make an agonizing decision and put her health before her looks. The Oscar winner had both of her breasts removed after learning she had an 87% risk of getting cancer. Jolie discovered she had the potentially deadly BRCA gene mutation earlier this year and decided she didn’t want her six children to lose their mother to cancer.

Jolie says she shared her story so she could help other women at risk of getting cancer to let all women know that gene testing is available. 23 News Reporter Jessica Geraci sat down with one Stateline mom who had the same testing done after watching her mother and grandmother struggle with breast cancer.

Ashley Mohr was just 20 years old when she found out she had a 50% chance of carrying the BRCA mutation, which dramatically increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. More says her children were her motivation to have the testing and later, a double mastectomy.

“I think I was 8 when my mom got cancer for the first time,” said Mohr. “Watching her have to through all of that, it made it harder, so to not have to have my children go through that makes it better.”

Now 24, Mohr will have one final breast reconstruction surgery next week. She hopes her story will spur other women to investigate their chances of carrying the BRCA mutation. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has a list of several criteria to help patients determine whether to get tested for the gene. Doctors say breast cancer isn’t the only disease the mutation can trigger.

“The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is not as high as the lifetime risk of breast cancer, but it’s a much more lethal disease. The breast side gets all the publicity, but the real threat to life is ovarian cancer,” said Oncologist Dr. William Edwards.

Doctor Edwards says the average age of a breast cancer patient in Illinois is 68 years old. Ashley Mohr’s case may seem extreme from that perspective, but she says she’s glad to have reduced her chance of getting sick at a young age.

Mohr’s been told by her doctors she should have a hysterectomy before she turns 30 to reduce the chance of developing ovarian cancer. The BRCA mutation is rare. Doctors note it can be inherited from both parents, as it is not just passed down by women.

To see if you match the criteria to have genetic testing visit: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA


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