NORFOLK - Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie disclosed Tuesday that she had a preventive mastectomy after learning she had a gene mutation, called the BRCA gene, that significantly raised her risk of breast cancer.
BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility gene.
A genetic test using a blood test can detect gene mutations. People at higher risk are those with close family members diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer at an early age.
Breast cancer specialist Dr. Claire Carman believes every woman should have this test done at 21 years old if she is high-risk.
She says Ms. Jolie's decision to have both of her breasts removed was very smart; however, she believes the actress should have started with removing her ovaries, considering her mother died of ovarian cancer. She says ovarian cancer is much harder to detect in its early and treatable stages because the screenings are very poor quality.
She says if your gene shows to be BRCA-positive, a double mastectomy significantly reduces the chances of developing cancer, but it doesn't completely eliminate it.
Does insurance cover the test? It can cost several thousand dollars. Dr. Carman says the first step to getting it covered is to meet with the breast cancer specialist or a genetic counselor.
Associated Press contributed to this report.