Many across the country are calling Angelina Jolie brave on Tuesday. Both for her decision to help prevent cancer and to speak out about it.
Connie Smith has been breast cancer survivor for more than a decade. She says she's in awe of Jolie’s courage, opting to have a double mastectomy after learning she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer.
“She’s a very brave lady to take such drastic action. I'm not so sure I'd be that brave,” said Smith.
Smith's cancer was caught early and treated with chemotherapy, radiation and medicine. But she worries about the gene mutation that affected Jolie.
“My mom has had breast cancer and I've had breast cancer, and I have an 18-year-old daughter, so checking for that gene is of the upmost importance,” said Smith.
Fresno oncologist and CBS47 medical contributor Dr. Giatri Dave says BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are tumor suppressor genes. A mutation is rare. Only five to ten percent of people have it and even less will develop cancer.
“When they're defective or if there's a mutation they can increase a person's risk for developing cancers. In a woman it's an increase risk of breast or ovarian cancers as well as other cancers and in men it's testicular and prostate as well as other cancers,” said Dr. Dave.
Sharon Johnson with Susan G. Komen is glad Jolie shared her experience. It'll make it less scary for others.
“She turned it around, let it empower her, and made a decision to help prolong her life,” said Johnson.
It was profound move for a woman known for her outward beauty.
“I'd say she's more beautiful than ever because she's beautiful inside now too,” said Smith.
Testing for the gene mutation is available here in the Central Valley. If you're conerned, you should first speak to your primary care doctor.