Recent news of double mastectomy brings many questions to surface

If you’ve learned about Angelina Jolie and her recent breast removal surgery, you may have a few questions.

While only five to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, a Sentara Cancer Network genetic counselor shares that it’s important to identify families with hereditary cancers. These can be breast cancers but also colon, pancreas, prostate or other cancer. By identifying families at higher risk, we are able to help prevent future cancers from occurring in these families with a strong history of cancer.

Here are several questions you can ask yourself to understand if you may be a candidate for genetic testing of the BRCA genes.

  • Have you or a family member (mother’s or father’s side) been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger?
  • Have you or a family member been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age?
  • Do you have a male family member who has had breast cancer at any age?
  • Do you have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer at any age?
  • Do you have a previously identified BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation in your family?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please call the toll-free Sentara Cancer Network resource line at 888-220-2214 to be connected with a breast expert who can help you with a more thorough discussion of your risk.

“Even though I realize finding out you have a gene that increases your risks of cancer is concerning, helping my patients begin to see that knowledge is power helps them reclaim some control,” says Jessa Blount, MS who is a certified genetic counselor with Sentara Medical Group.

The new information patients learn through genetic testing helps them make better decisions about their health.

Learn more about Sentara Cancer Genetic Services. 



Cheri Hinshelwood

I am a native of Virginia Beach and have worked for Sentara in Corporate Communications since 2002, doing health care public relations. I enjoy story telling and am honored to help share real patient experiences of exceptional care through traditional and now social media outlets. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, blueberries, my family and good food.

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