A Mother And Daughter Confront Their Breast Cancer Risk

May 21, 2013
Originally published on May 22, 2013 8:07 am

Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie has been in the headlines, by her own choice for a change.

Genetic testing showed she was at high risk for breast cancer, so she decided to have a double mastectomy to improve her odds. She revealed her choice, and the thinking behind it, in a recent op-ed in The New York Times.

On Tuesday's Tell Me More, host Michel Martin spoke to a mother and daughter who faced the same issue.

Regina Brett is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She wrote about the path she and her daughter Gabrielle (Gabe) Brett took in an award-winning series called "The Inheritance." Both women had prophylactic double mastectomies.

Regina says Jolie's action could alter the public discussion:

"You know, when we had surgery, people kind of rolled their eyes and said, 'Jeez, are you crazy? What are you making such a radical decision for?' So I think it's important somebody that famous has the gene and is honest about her decisions."

Gabe described why she decided to have a surgery because of her cancer risk:

"I just needed to know. I was going to ... you know, go through life believing I had a time bomb in me no matter what. So if I could get the relief of finding out I was negative and I was not a carrier, then I could relax a bit more. If I found out I was positive, then I felt like I could get the surveillance and the screening, regular mammograms, breast MRIs, and be really proactive about it. But not knowing was not going to be helpful."

Gabe on how she sees her decision in hindsight:

"No-brainer now that we have a family, and now that my priorities are different. The hardest part is actually coming to grips with, I'm going to remove a healthy part of my body. And I think once I made that decision, you know, the weeks leading up to surgery, I had a lot of anxiety, but honestly the minute I got rolled out of surgery and I was awake and alert, I felt such relief."

Regina, on the decision to not have reconstructive surgery:

"For me, I wasn't going to have breasts again. I would have maybe an implant with skin over it but for me it wasn't the breasts that I had known and loved my whole life. I wouldn't feel anything. I wouldn't feel if somebody touched me, and I realized I would only be having breasts for everyone else to look at and say 'wow, she looks great.' ... So I bought prosthetic breasts, and I named 'em Thelma and Louise."

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