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Angelina Jolie Sheds Lights on Preventative Breast Mastectomies
CEDAR RAPIDS (CBS 2/ FOX28) --Tonia Smith now sits healthy and happy after having had both of her breasts removed.
"I needed to do what I needed to do," she said.
It was just last October that she got news that changed the rest of her life.
"I was told that I had an 87 percent chance for breast cancer," said the wife and mother.
She found out she had the potentially deadly BRCA 2 gene mutation.
"If a woman has one of these gene mutations, risk of developing breast cancer over their lifetime is approaching 90 percent," said Shana Coker, a genetics nurse practitioner at Mercy Hospital Hall-Perrine Cancer Center.
Smith says that percentage was too high to risk not removing her breasts, especially with the disease on many of the branches of her family tree.
"My mom was 41 when she had cancer, and I'm 39,” said Smith. "Cancer's hit my family very, very hard."
Genetic testing is now in the national spotlight.
Actress Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday that she removed both breasts in a “New York Times” article, after being diagnosed with a similar gene mutation.
“I do think that it will get people talking a little bit more about genetic testing," Coker said.
Experts say the BRCA gene mutation is only found in five to seven percent of people tested.
But getting that test is what potentially saved Smith's life, lowering her chance of getting breast cancer from nearly 90 percent down to three.
“I'm glad I did it," she said.
Smith says the experience has given her a new, more positive outlook on life. She's even adopted a new motto.
“When life gets you down, just keep on swimming,” Smith said.