Nightly News   |  May 14, 2013

Considering genetic testing? It’s not for everyone

Actress Angelina Jolie made headlines Tuesday when she announced in a New York Times op-ed that she had underwent a double mastectomy after finding out she had an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer due to the BRCA1 gene. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> one of the most famous women in the world,age leah jolie is going public with a very personal decision, she has revealed she had a preventative double mastectomy after a test shows she carries a rare gene that made it extremely likely, an 87% she would develop breast cancer and increase her risk of ovarian cancer , which killed her mother. tonight her decision and the test that prompted it is raising questions for a lot of women. our report from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: it is a stunning announcement by one of hollywood's most glamorous leading laidedies. angelina said she had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery earlier this year. jolie wrote "i carry a faulty gene, brca1 which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer . i decided to be proactive and minimize the risk as much as i could." the decision, she says was influenced by the death of her own matter, marsha lee bertrand who fought breast cancer for ten years and died at 56. she says she can now assure the family it is unlikely they will lose her to the disease.

>> good job, worker.

>> reporter: gabriele brett of cleveland made a similar choice, she will had the gene mutation and underwent a double mastectomy before starting a family.

>> being pregnant and not have to worry getting diagnosed with breast cancer was so great that i wouldn't, i look back and i wouldn't change a thing.

>> reporter: while the tests for brca1 and 2 mutations are simple, they can be expensive. more than $3,000. although in some cases a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer will prompt insurance companies to cover the cost, but doctors caution genetic testing isn't for everyone.

>> women who do not have a family history i think should not be overly anxious about this. however, women who have a family history should check with a family physician .

>> reporter: in jolie 's decision basing an intelligence decision is what the future of personalized medicine is all about.

>> she would have a risk of almost 90% of develop breast cancer in her lifetime so this is true medical prevention. this is genomics preventing a very serious disease.

>> genetic causes for breast cancer are rare, only 5% to 8% so to underscore women who should get genetic testing arefamily histories and talk about options, in angelina jolie 's case, surgery but for a lot of other women watchfulness and medication.