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Kalamazoo cancer specialist says Angelina Jolie's mastectomy opens options for other women


KALAMAZOO (WKZO) -- It was initially a shock to hear that Hollywood A-lister Angelina Jolie had undergone a double mastectomy. Local health experts hope her high profile will prompt other women to follow her lead and get the additional testing to determine if they are at higher risk.

Jolie has a genetic trait that makes her highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer.  She had an 87% risk of breast cancer before the surgery.  Now its 5%. 

Kalamazoo Doctor Dean Copley, the Director of Breast Imaging and Intervention at Borgess Health Systems says not every woman needs to take the test, but a geneticist can screen for those who are good candidates.

If a woman does test positive for the gene, there are options that each woman has to choose, and it can be a difficult choice. They can greatly increase monitoring to try and catch it as early as possible. There is a pill therapy that blocks estrogen which will suppress the cancer, but the most surefire route is the most agressive, the one that Angelina Jolie has taken.

Copley says having it done before cancer appears may not only reduce the threat of death, but he says it also improves the outcome and appearance of reconstructive surgery.