May 14, 2013 5:20 PM by NBC News
(NBC News) Oscar winner Angelina Jolie is turning heads for something other than her acting and directing skills.
Writing in the New York Times, Jolie says she underwent a double mastectomy after learning she tested positive for one of the breast cancer genes.
"She's in her 30s and she has several children and she watched her mother die from cancer, and she wants to do the most she can to avoid this," says Dr. Judy Garber of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Genetic mutations cause five to ten percent of breast cancers.
Getting tested for the genes is the most effective way to determine your risk, but doctors say only people with a strong family history should consider screening.
"If it looks like there's a lot of breast and ovarian cancer, particularly in young women in your family, seek the advice of a high risk clinic. Inquire about the possibility of having a BRCA test done," advises Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
While the test is widely available, not every woman can afford the hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
"Genetic testing is covered by most insurers in the US at this time, not ever as completely as one would like, it is still a very expensive test," Dr. Garber says.
So are the treatment options for women who test positive, which include breast and ovary removal surgeries, or vigilant monitoring with mammograms and breast MRIs.
Neither option is a one hundred percent guarantee, but they do significantly lower the risk for disease.
Jolie says she feels empowered by her decision, and that she hopes coming forward with her story will help women make more informed choices about their own health.
Read more: http://nbcnews.to/YTYdis
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