Tampa, Florida - Angelina Jolie surprised the world with her news of undergoing a double mastectomy. Her mother died of breast cancer and she tested positive for the gene putting Jolie at a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
See also: Angelina Jolie: I had preventive double mastectomy surgery
Jolie is sharing her story to encourage other women to be pro-active about their health and know their options.
For Jolie and many women, her journey began with a test. According to genetic experts, about 100,000 people- mostly women- are genetically tested each year.
See also: Q&A: Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy
The BRCA Test looks for mutations in two genes, but even with a negative result some women are not taking any chances.
"I'm 43 I have a long life to live yet," says 43-year-old Dawn Beaty.
Four years ago Beaty says she lost a sister to breast cancer, another sister and mother are breast cancer survivors and Beaty says her mammograms last year showed masses.
Unlike Angelina Jolie, Beaty's BRCA test came back negative but she took Jolie's same drastic measures.
See also: Brad Pitt: Jolie's choice 'absolutely heroic'
"I didn't know if six months down the road those masses would become cancer. I opted for the Mastectomy completely. I wanted to head it off before it turned into cancer," says Beaty.
"The bottom line is saving lives it's all about cancer," says Beaty's plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Albear.
The Wesley Chapel surgeon says he's seeing many women like Beaty who are electing a mastectomy even with a negative BRCA test result out of fear. But unlike 20 years ago, Albear says, "I think the options are great now."
Albear says advances in reconstruction can leave a woman feeling whole again and cancer free.
"Now, what we are doing is so fascinating," he says. "Because we are able to do immediate reconstruction with an incision on the crease of the natural breast- go in, get the breast out- for many women we are able to leave the nipple behind and leave the breast intact."
And taking such measures can prove to be in one's best interest, since BRCA test results are said to be reliable.
"The test is highly accurate," says USF Geneticist Dr Rebecca Sutphen, adding that a positive BRCA test gives a woman up to an 87 percent chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
The test results even put her family on notice.
"If a mutation is present in your family, there is a 50 percent chance your siblings or your child have inherited that risk. It's valuable information for you and your family."
Under the new Affordable Care Act, Dr. Sutphen says insurances must cover genetic counseling and testing for high risk patients who qualify. The BRCA test can run $ 3,000.
Sutphen says regardless of the results under the new Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot say you have a pre-existing condition and drop you from the plan.
Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on twitter @IzzyMascarenas
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