Patricia Petrie, 72, of Middletown surrounds her self with photographs of the people she loves. She knows just how special every moment with them is. Following her annual mammogram in 2007 the grandmother of six was diagnosed with ductal and invasive breast cancer (Her-2).
After learning she was at a higher risk of developing cancer in the other breast Petrie decided to have a double mastectomy.
"I said I don't want to think about it. What day can we do it?" Petrie recalls telling her doctors.
Actress Angelina Jolie recently made a similar decision opting to have a double mastectomy after learning she also had an increased risk of breast cancer. Jolie tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene, a genetic abnormality that puts her at a 50-87% risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
Dr. Jennifer Scalia-Wilbur of the Cancer Risk Assessment and Prevention Program at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence says Jolie's decision is not typical.
"The vast majority of women who test positive do not choose prophylactic bilateral mastectomy," said Wilbur.
Dr. Wilbur says deciding wether to go forward with the surgery can be an emotional time and is a very personal.
"Women are given choices of either prophylactic bilateral mastectomy or screening more vigilantly," she said.
Having the surgery reduces the risk of cancer by about 97%. If a woman chooses not to have the surgery yearly mammogram and MRI's are done.
Petrie was also tested for the BRCA gene. She does not carry it.