Jolie’s double mastectomy is not the only way to prevent breast cancer

Posted at 10:35 PM, May 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-14 22:35:25-04

Manhattan, NY (PIX11) – “When they walked in the door, they were concerned about it,” said Dr. Lynn Ratner of Manhattan Cancer Specialists on the Upper East Side about the dozen patients he saw today.

An oncology specialist for nearly 50 years, Dr. Ratner says all his patients could talk about was actress Angelina Jolie’s op-Ed in the New York Times.

“I think it does a great service to heighten awareness of breast cancer screening and also breast cancer genetic testing,” said Dr. Ratner.

The genetic testing is something Dr. Ratner already talks about with his patients and their family members multiple times a month.  He even wrote about it in his book on breast cancer.

“I think it’s important not to be overly concerned or hysterical about the need to get such testing.  Talk to your physician first,” he said.

To keep it in perspective, Dr. Ratner broke down the numbers for us.

The “faulty” gene (BRCA1, BRCA2) is known to cause only 5-10% of breast cancers and 10-15% of ovarian cancers.

“Plus, everybody is not a candidate for the testing.  In fact, very few women are candidates for testing,” he said.

Now, if you do have this faulty gene, Dr. Ratner insists, “It’s not a death sentence.”

And it does not mean you must have your breasts or ovaries removed as part of the prevention.

“Careful yearly screening and use of diagnostic tests such as scans and sonograms.  There are a whole host of things that can be done in terms of surveillance to make sure that if a cancer is going to develop, it will be caught early when it can be cured,” said Dr. Ratner.

As for men, keep in mind, they can get breast cancer too.

Dr. Ratner says men are not usually tested for this faulty gene but it can be passed down from the father’s side.

The men who do have the faulty gene have a small chance of developing pancreatic and prostate cancer but its not near the level of risk as women.