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Years ago, our medical history seemed to be somewhat of a mystery. But now, tools like genetic tests can help shed light on our pre-disposed risks for things like cancer. And those tests are getting a lot of attention after a Hollywood actress went public about her choice to have a preventive double mastectomy.
10 years ago Mindi Larson of Clear Lake, was 6 weeks pregnant when she found a lump in her breast. Although doctors thought it was just a clogged milk duct, Mindi’s gut was telling her something different. She insisted the mass be removed and went back to the doctor.
“To look at bandages and they told me I had breast cancer,” shares Larson.
At that point she was in her second trimester.
“I underwent a mastectomy, they monitored the baby very closely, I wanted to do a double but they wouldn’t because of my pregnancy they didn’t want me to be under anesthesia and in surgery for that long with a fetus,” she explains.
A few months after her daughter was born, Larson opted to get her other breast removed to reduce her risk of the cancer coming back.
“It was hard though, you know it’s very personal intimate decision especially when you’re a young woman, in the grand scheme of things, what’s more important,” says Larson.
A-list actress Angelina Jolie made headlines world-wide when she announced that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy recently. The actress knew that she had a genetic mutation that put her at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
“There’s 2 gene mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2 and basically of all the breast cancer in the country only 10% of breast cancer patients have a genetic mutation,” explains Lila Courtney, an Advanced Oncology Nurse Practitioner at Mercy Cancer Center.
While it is very rare, Jolie’s mother had the gene and died of ovarian cancer at a young age. Jolie then elected to get herself tested for the mutation.
“It’s passed on from the DNA from one generation to another generation,” says Courtney.
Joy Brown, a breast cancer survivor says she can see why Jolie did what she did.
“I would have done the same thing, if it would have been in my family, which it wasn’t and if it came back and I could prevent what I had to go through, absolutely,” says Brown.
Meanwhile, Larson doesn’t know if she has the genetic mutation or if she passed it along to one of her children, but she wants to find out.
“We are in the process of setting up appointments in IA city for her to start with an oncologist so that we can monitor her and make sure that she’s healthy and we can be proactive instead of reactive,” Larson says.
Both Mindi Larson and Joy Brown have been cancer free for 10 and 11 years respectively.