LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A spokesperson for the health care facility where Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy has spoken out to urge all women to be proactive about testing for the BRCA gene.
Dr. Kristi Funk, founder of the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, praised the actress for speaking out about her medical journey on Tuesday. Jolie, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, wrote that she made the decision after doctors told her she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer because she carries the BRCA1 gene.
“The Pink Lotus Breast Center applauds Angelina Jolie’s bold choices regarding her BRCA mutation,” Dr. Funk, who is also a board-certified surgical breast specialist, told KCAL9′s Kristine Lazar.
“We hope that the awareness she is raising around the world will save countless lives.”
Dr. Travis Kidner, a surgical oncologist who tests for the breast cancer gene, said testing can be done with non-invasive blood work or saliva analysis.
“The vast majority of women with breast cancer have no family history, and there’s a small subset – about seven percent – who have mutations in the BRCA gene,” Dr. Kidner said.
“I do salivary testing in my office. The women simply swish their mouths with mouthwash for 30 seconds, spit that into a cup – I send that to a lab in Utah and they give me the result in two weeks.”
A geneticist who spoke with Lazar said most insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, will include testing for the BRCA gene if certain criteria are met, such as having a family history of breast cancer.
If such criteria is not met, the test costs an average of $3,000.
Jolie, whose mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56, said her chance of getting breast cancer dropped to five percent after the procedure.
The 37-year-old said she wanted to speak out about her situation to let women know that it may be tough, but there are options available.
“I chose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer,” she said.
More information about Jolie’s medical journey at the Pink Lotus Breast Center is available on the facility’s blog.