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Choosing Double Mastectomy Like Christina Applegate

Armen Hareyan's picture

Television and movie star Christina Applegate made the stunning decision to have a double-mastectomy after being diagnosed with early-stage cancer in one breast. But five years ago, Karen, a 40-year-old Miami mother of two decided to remove two healthy breasts even before any cancer developed.

Both women made the same difficult decision because they tested positive for a high-risk gene mutation that is handed down from mother to daughter. Mutations in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes are among the most fearsome in medicine because they are linked to an extremely high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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That risk weighed too heavily on Karen, who lost her mother to breast cancer at 14 and wanted to protect her two sons from the same experience.

Double mastectomies for cancer prevention are up as much as 150 percent between 1998 and 2003, according to recent studies.

This story is provided by the Baptist-South Miami Regional Cancer Program Genetic Risk Education Service, which provides personalized genetic education to individuals concerned about their risk for hereditary breast, ovarian, colorectal, endometrial cancer and melanoma. The educational service is free and genetic testing is available for a fee that is usually covered by insurance. Financial aid is also available for low- income women who can’t pay or lack insurance.