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Making changes to avoid breast cancer

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BATON ROUGE - Actress and director Angelina Jolie announced a difficult medical decision she made with her children in mind. Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after her doctors estimated she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

A woman in Baton Rouge made the same tough choice to help protect her from the deadly cancer.

Since 2003, Sandra Christal has been diagnosed with breast cancer four times. She's had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She made the decision to remove one of her breasts after her second diagnosis, when doctors found a tumor smaller than a push pin. She had the second one removed a few years after, and said she'd have done it a long time ago had she known about the long road ahead of her.

"If you have a mastectomy before cancer, before you're diagnosed with cancer, I feel you have a better chance of not even getting it," said Christal.

Doctors at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center say of all breast cancers, 10 percent are hereditary. A large majority of those are caused by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.

"We know that those people have a 50 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer," said oncologist Kellie Schmeeckle. "It can reduce her risk by 90 percent or greater by having surgery."

Doctors say if cancer runs in your family, regular check-ups are necessary. A mastectomy does not eliminate the risk of developing cancer, but it does lower a person's chances.

"Most women who undergo a bilateral mastectomy feel book about their decision," said Schmeeckle.

Women who are at risk of BRCA1 or BRCA2 should begin seeing a doctor at an early age,starting at 25 according to Schmeeckle.

If a man is in a family with a history of BRCA1, they can also be at an increased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.


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