Valley women talk about preventative double mastectomy

FRESNO, Calif.

Jolie wrote in the New York Times that she discovered she had inherited a genetic mutation that put her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56.

Many women across the Valley have made the same choice after testing positive for the mutated gene. But there are other options that are less costly.

Jamie Ledezma of Fresno was 27 years old and pregnant with her only child when she felt a lump in her breast. She was just fourteen weeks pregnant and her doctor told her she had breast cancer. Because she lost her aunt and grandmother at 40 and 50 years old, she wanted to know if she was carrying the BRCA1 gene, a mutated breast cancer gene.

Jamie said, "It's not at all how I envisioned going through my 20's and 30's. And what will be my golden years one day. But I have an obligation to parent."

Jamie tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. She chose a bi-lateral mastectomy, and because she was also at risk of ovarian cancer, she had a hysterectomy.

Fresno Surgeon Dr. Margaret Hadcock says she had many patients undergo a double mastectomy to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer, and she believes the odds are in the patients' favor.

Dr. Hadcock said, "If you have preventive surgery and you're a gene carrier, you're able to prevent breast cancer to a 99 percent efficacy, that pretty huge."

Genetic testing can cost anywhere from $3,000.00 to $5,000.00. Many insurance companies will pay for it if you are a high risk. But some won't. It depends upon your age and the number of cancers in your family.

Genetic Counselor Dr. Dawn Delozier says only five to ten percent of all breast cancers are genetic. Most are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. But, if you are an unaffected carrier, she says there are other choices besides mastectomy.

Dr. Delozier said, "We are lucky to have really good imaging tools - so if you're an unaffected carrier, you also have the possibility of using the best imaging we have, which is digital mammography plus breast MRI every year."

Jamie Ledezma is not only a cancer survivor; she's a cancer rights attorney who works for the non-profit organization "Cancer Legal Resource Center."

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