HEALTH

Breast Cancer Awareness: Jacqui Jeras talks about preventative mastectomy

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Good Morning Washington meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has seen storms brewing for years, but this time it was a personal one. Breast cancer had already stricken her grandmother, mother and two aunts. In February, her sister Janel was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

Jacqui did not have the BRCA gene mutation, but genetic counseling showed her current 30 percent risk would skyrocket with age.

"There is always that chance there's some other gene that caused those cancers in the family," explained Cassidi Kalejta, Inova Health Systems Genetic Counselor.

Jacqui and her and husband Mike discussed options. They were: more frequent monitoring with MRIs, mammograms and clinical exams, or prophylactic drugs like Tamoxifen.

"By having the surgery, my risk of getting breast cancer will drop to three percent over a lifetime," explained Jeras. "So why would I not do that?"

Preventive mastectomies are increasing 10 to 15 percent a year because of better screening and cosmetic reconstruction. But there are potential drawbacks.

"It's a big surgery and you lose sensation," explained Dr. Costanza Cocilovo. "Doing bilateral mastectomies you lose sensation, so it's not like there's no price to be paid."

It is a risk Jacqui was willing to take. Married twenty years with two children and health insurance that covered more than she expected, she decided peace of mind was worth the price.

"I have a tremendous amount of support," said Jeras. "I have faith, I have family, I have my friends. And that will get me through this."

Genetic counseling doesn't have to mean testing. It can just be reviewing family history to assess your risk. The BRCA test costs about $4,000, but insurance may cover it.

For a list of risk factors, visit breastcancer.org.

For other information about breast cancer, check out brightpink.org, facingourrisk.org, and youngsurvival.org.

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