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Preemptive breast removal a growing trend

Shortly after revealing that she had a preventative double mastectomy, actress Angelina Jolie said she will also have her ovaries removed.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Shortly after revealing that she had a preventative double mastectomy, actress Angelina Jolie said she will also have her ovaries removed.

Jolie has a genetic mutation that sharply increases the risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

Recently, a North Syracuse woman chose to have a double mastectomy for similar preventative reasons.

According to Andrea Riccelli’s doctor, she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

A mother of three, Riccelli elected to have her breasts removed.

“I decided I'd rather choose the preventive mastectomy rather than illness, I'd rather choose that - than have my kids see me sick, or not be here in a decade or so,” she said.

Riccelli has a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer.

Genetic testing showed she was a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene, which dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer.

The number of women choosing to have preventive surgery has increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years.

Riccelli has a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer.

For many of our patients, it’s what they choose to do after carefully considering all the factors,” said Dr. Jayne Charlamb of Upstate University Hospital’s Breast Care Center.

There are other options to reduce the risk, including taking medicine and carefully monitoring the situation.

But doctors say the surgery, though drastic, is the most effective way to reduce the risk.

“It’s not perfect. We can never say you won’t get breast cancer, but it’s the most effective way. Again though, it has to be the right decision for the woman involved.

Riccelli says it was. She says the surgeries were difficult and whole process took about four months.

But she has no regrets and hopes the procedure will leave her cancer-free and worry-free.

“87 percent is almost 90 percent and I like to tell people that doubt me, would you get on an airplane if they told you this plane had a 90 percent chance of crashing?” she asked.

Her sister is scheduled to receive a double mastectomy on Thursday.

Women are advised to talk to their doctors about the procedure, but also to talk to other women.

Riccelli felt that same need, so she started a support group for women undergoing the procedure. They meet once every few months.

For more information on the group Riccelli started, email caitlinnuclo@9wsyr.com.

Additional information:

Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years.

But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options.Tthey can be watched carefully and there are drugs they can take like tamoxifen to reduce their risk by as much as 50 percent.

The best and clearest way to assess your genetic risk is to look at your family history, and count the number of first-degree relatives who've had cancer, particularly cancer that onset before the age of 50.

Only your parents, siblings, and children are considered first-degree relatives; aunts, uncles and grandparents are second-degree relatives.

Here's how the National Cancer Institute calculates your familial risk for BRCA testing:

If you're a Jewish woman whose ancestors came from eastern europe, called Ashkensi, you should consider genetic testing if you have:

•Any first-degree relative diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer
•Two second-degree relatives (same side of the family) with breast or ovarian cancer

If you're not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent:

•Two first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, one of whom age 50 or younger when diagnosed. or Three or more first-degree or second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at any age
•A first-degree relative with bilateral breast cancer (in both breasts)
•A combination of two or more first- or second-degree relatives diagnosed with ovarian cancer, no matter what their age
•A first- or second-degree relative diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancer
•Breast cancer diagnosed in a male relative

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