GREEN BAY - The testing for the gene that could cause breast and ovarian cancer isn't just for celebrities like Angelina Jolie.
Amanda Garrity says after generations of women in her family being diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer, she decided to be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
"I knew it wasn't a matter of if I was going to get breast cancer, it was a matter of when," said Garrity of Reedsville.
The test was positive. Garrity was genetically predisposed for breast cancer. And then she elected to have a double mastectomy, to eliminate that risk.
"It was this past February, and it was four days after my 24th birthday," said Garrity.
Garrity says she was overcome with emotions when she heard Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie went through the same procedure.
"It's exciting that she felt the need to come publicly out with such a private decision," said Garrity.
Genetic counselors say pro-active surgery is more common than you might think.
"Most women who have the BRCA mutation will go down the surgical route, like Angelina Jolie did and have risk-reducing surgery. Some women just choose increase screenings," said Sumedha Ghate, genetic counselor.
St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay says it has performed genetic risk assessment for cancer since 1996. It involves a simple blood test. The hospital says it sees new women being tested every week.
But, genetic counselors say only some women with a high-risk family history need it.
"Some of the signs include young age of breast cancer diagnosis, meaning pre-menopausal, multiple people in the family with pre-menopausal breast cancer or breast cancer in general," said Ghate.
For those women at risk, Garrity hopes her story and Jolie's can break the silence.
"We need powerhouse authoritative women to promote that there are options before being diagnosed with breast cancer," said Garrity.
Taking a daring step, that could save their lives.
Genetic counselors say if you're at a high risk for breast cancer, the testing most likely will be covered by health insurance. Gene testing can cost up to $4,000.
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