Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Actress Angelina Jolie's revelation that she had a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carried a gene that makes it extremely likely she will get breast cancer has a lot of women talking. Breast surgeons are hoping the Hollywood star's announcement will help others.
Las Vegas breast cancer specialist Dr. Souzan El-Eid calls Jolie's announcement courageous.
"Angelina Jolie is basically a sex symbol, a seduction symbol, so if she's coming out and speaking about it, then she is a pioneer for other women," says Dr. El-Eid.
Seiko Ray was in her 20's when her OB-GYN told her she should get tested to see if she had that "faulty" gene that would make it very likely for her to get breast cancer. Ray's grandmother had ovarian cancer and her aunt died of breast cancer. Two years after getting that advice that she should take the test, she did. And the results changed her life.
"I found out that I had the BRCA 1 mutation," she says.
Doctors told her that gave her an 87-percent chance of getting breast cancer. For Ray, who was only 29 years old at the time, it was devastating.
"I always dreamed about retiring with my husband and spending time traveling and things like that," she says tearfully. "And I thought maybe I wouldn't have that."
With her husband, Scott, supporting her decision, Ray made the difficult choice to have both of her breasts removed. Doctors now say that her chance of getting breast cancer has gone down to about 5-percent.
Dr. El-Eid, who's Ray's doctor, said that taking such a drastic preventive measure is not that rare these days.
"It's pretty common and actually over the past few years, I think it's with emerging trends of people getting tested for the gene and knowing the risk that patients come in asking for the double mastectomy," says Dr. El-Eid.
Ray, who's now 30 years old and about to celebrate her 7 years of being married to her husband, these days are all about having peace of mind. Now, she and Scott are more confident about planning for their future together.
"No regrets!" she says about the surgery. She says it wasn't very painful. And she says she wasn't very depressed about how she looked afterward. She says plastic surgery can do amazing things these days. Like Dr. El-Eid, she's hoping that Angelina Jolie's decision to come forward and let other women know about her surgery, will open more people's eyes and minds to it.
If a woman has a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, Dr. El-Eid they can look into getting tested. Those tests can cost about $4,000 and are sometimes covered by insurance. Dr. El-Eid says that, if that test uncovers that genetic mutation that can put one at high risk of breast cancer, a doctor will usually refer the patient to a specialist like herself. A double mastectomy surgery can cost around $8,500. That does not include the cost of the hospital stay, anesthesia, and reconstructive surgery.