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Breast Cancer Health Center

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'Angelina Jolie Effect' On Cancer Gene Testing

Women at greatest risk were the ones who sought genetic counseling, researcher said


"It's what we call the 'Katie Couric effect,' " he said, referring to the rise in colonoscopies after the television news personality had an on-camera colonoscopy in 2000 to raise awareness after her husband died of the disease.

What is also important, he said, is that the women at higher risk get to the genetic counselors. "Genetic counseling is a limited resource," he said. Some small towns, for instance, may not have such counselors.

The Raphael study was funded by Sanofi-Aventis. A co-author, Dr. Sunil Verma, reports consulting or advisory work with several pharmaceutical companies.

In another study presented at the meeting, researchers reported that more than half of 150 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer considered having a preventive mastectomy on the healthy breast immediately after the diagnosis.

The surgery is known as a contralateral preventive mastectomy (CPM). "Many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients are undergoing CPM, but we find many more -- over half -- are actually considering CPM [at some point] in their decision-making process," said study author Dr. Katharine Yao, director of the breast surgical program at NorthShore University Health System, in Evanston, Ill.

She is also due to present her findings at the ASCO meeting.

In the end, just 12 of the women chose the CPM.

Those who consider having it, she said, have more anxiety than the other women.

Yao said her study points to the need to do a better job of educating women that the risk of developing cancer in the opposite breast is actually low.

Studies presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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