But some people are still a little unclear about all of the medical jargon that has come along with the news, so here are some important facts to help clear up any lingering confusion:
Angelina said she was at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer due to a faulty BRCA1 gene, but not everyone knows exactly what that is. BRCA1 is a gene that everyone has and is responsible for repairing damaged DNA, but a mutation of the gene can cause it to produce protein that greatly increases the risks of cancer.
Is it common to have a BRCA1 mutation?
Not at all. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has a BRCA1 mutation.
Can a faulty BRCA1 gene be passed down to my children?
Unfortunately, yes. Children can inherit a mutated BRCA1 gene from either their mother OR their father, so if there is a history of cancer or faulty genes in your family it is HIGHLY recommended that you get tested.
How high are my chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer if I have a BRCA1 mutation?
Only about 5% of all 220,000 cancer patients are caused by the gene mutation, but your chances are still significantly higher than someone who doesn't have a faulty gene. People with a BRCA1 mutation have a 60-85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 20-50% chance of developing ovarian cancer.
How do I get tested for it?
Getting tested for a gene mutation is usually just a simple blood or saliva test, but it's important to keep in mind that some insurance companies wont cover the cost because it might be considered "high-risk," so an analysis could cost around $3,000.
What should I do if I have a faulty gene?
Angelina probably went about it the best way possible. Many women will choose to have mastectomies or closely monitor themselves for warning signs if they have a BRCA1 mutation. Doctors also recommend women get their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed before the age of 40, ESPECIALLY if they are done having children. However, these procedures could end up leading to early menopause in some women.
Hopefully this helps answer any questions or concerns people have about the risks of getting cancer, but of course if you still have any major questions we HIGHLY recommend scheduling a checkup with your doctor!
After all, they're the experts! LOLz!
[Image via Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.]