Actress Angelina Jolie has gone public with a very personal health decision, writing in an op-ed that she underwent a double mastectomy earlier this year after testing positive for a gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
Jolie's mother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56.
At the beginning of this year, Jolie made the decision to undergo surgery. We spoke to a valley woman who took the same preventive measure.
A-lister Angelina Jolie shared Tuesday that she was at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer due to a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.
BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 help the body prevent the growth of tumors. Like Jolie, Anthem resident- Christine McCulley made the same decision to have a double mastectomy at the age of 39.
"I had a strong family history, my mom had passed away from ovarian cancer and her sister, my aunt had breast cancer," says McCulley.
Her mother and aunt both died from the cancer in their 40s. Two years after learning she had the mutated gene, the mother of two made the decision with her husband to undergo a double mastectomy at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.
"Once I decided to do it I knew it was the right decision, I just felt it."
The Mayo Clinic's genetic counselor Katherine Hunt says only 5% to 10% of women with breast cancer have the gene mutation that McCulley and Angelina Jolie share.
"Women who should consider genetic testing are women who've had a family history of breast cancer, any woman who's been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 50 and any women who's has both breast and ovarian cancer or has a family history of ovarian cancer," says Hunt.
If a woman does have the mutation there's a 50% chance she could pass it on to her children. Now 42 years old and fully recovered from reconstructive surgery, McCulley is thrilled to see a celebrity speaking out and raising awareness.
"She's a big celebrity but she's also human just like me so… she did what she felt was right for her family. I want to be there for my kids."
Hunt says it's not just women who can pass on the mutated gene. Men who have the mutation have a 50 percent chance of passing it onto their son, increasing their risk of breast and prostate cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic -- most insurance companies cover the gene test. Their genetic counselor recommends looking at your family history and then talking to your doctor.