Actress and philanthropist Angelina Jolie is getting a lot of attention after announcing she recently had a double mastectomy. A genetic test showed Jolie has a gene that increases her risk of getting breast cancer.
Most people know someone who has battled breast cancer, but one Kansas City metro woman's story will likely become more and more common as she makes the same decision Jolie just made.
Kelly Boling is not a Hollywood celebrity, but is a star in her own home and a very big deal to her husband and three little boys, who are 3, 1 and 2 months old.
It was a couple of years ago that Boling was diagnosed with the exact genetic mutation Jolie announced she has. Her family has a large history of cancer, including her father, who died from pancreatic cancer, and several female relatives with both breast and ovarian cancers.
Boling decided to take the test, which is done with a cheek swab or blood test.
With a nearly 90 percent chance she'll develop cancer, Boling isn't taking any chances. She'll be having a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed.
"It's a big decision," she said. "It's very difficult. I've been thinking about it for several years actually. My husband and family keep talking about it and I'm trying to figure out what the best option is and what's the best time to do something."
The test to find out whether you have the potentially deadly BRCA1 gene mutation is expensive, costing about $4,000. The good news is it's covered by most insurance companies these days, along with Medicaid and Medicare.
Jennifer Klemp is a counselor at The University of Kansas Cancer Center. She says taking the test is easy - a swish and spit collection of cheek cells. But making the decision is hard.
"We don't ever make a decision for them. We just help them process that information and about 30 percent of women, like Angelina, would go ahead and have both of their breasts removed," Klemp said.
But Klemp said women need to know. Hereditary risk accounts for just a small slice of cancer cases, and the center is choosy about who can get the genetic test.
"Because for a lot of patients where there is a negative test, they still have risk," Klemp said.
Dr. Stephanie Graff with Menorah Medical Center recommends getting tested if you're concerned. If you have a family history of breast, ovarian or prostate and pancreatic cancer, you might be a good candidate. She said if you test positive, it's a test that could save your life.
"We see more and more women opting for bilateral mastectomies. We have surgeons with expert training in that. It opens up the door for lots of things in terms of plastic reconstruction. So more and more women are opting for that," she said.
Boling said she's happy Jolie came forward with her personal story and she hopes it'll bring awareness of the test to the forefront and help save more lives.
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