U of M doctor admires Jolie for having preventative cancer surgery

6:01 PM, May 14, 2013   |    comments
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Angelina Jolie file photo by Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS - A University of Minnesota surgical oncologist says he admires the decision of actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy to prevent getting breast cancer.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times Tuesday, Jolie wrote that she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation which can lead to breast and ovarian cancer. 

Her decision to have a double mastectomy and go public has brought praise. University of Minnesota surgical oncologist Dr. Todd Tuttle performs about 50 mastectomies a year.  He said he admires Jolie for going public and trying to help others.

"It will reduce the risk of getting breast cancer by 90 to 95 percent so it's quite effective," Tuttle said. "And in this group of patients who have a BRCA mutation, having the double mastectomy and having the ovaries removed probably expand their life expectancy as well."

The 37-year-old actress said doctors told her she had an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer. 

Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at age 56, about a decade after being diagnosed. 

So in February, Jolie said she began a three-month process of having both breasts removed and reconstructed. Now, her risk of breast cancer is less than 5 percent. 

Tuttle said a double mastectomy is a very effective choice for those at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Jolie said she started with her breasts, because the cancer risk was higher. So it's possible she will have her ovaries removed as well.

Tuttle said those with a family history of ovarian and breast cancers, especially in a mother, sister, a male or someone diagnosed young, may want to consider genetic testing. 

He said testing is usually covered by insurance for those who are high risk, as is a mastectomy for those who do have the genetic mutation.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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