Knoxville woman opens up about positive BRCA test

Knoxville woman opens up about positive BRCA test and double mastectomy

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"I started having bad mammograms, not in the sense that I had cancer, but just findings. So I went and talked to my oncologist about it and she recommended I have the gene test," Tondrea Vance explained. "I started having bad mammograms, not in the sense that I had cancer, but just findings. So I went and talked to my oncologist about it and she recommended I have the gene test," Tondrea Vance explained.
People with strong family histories of breast cancer are encouraged to get the test for the BRCA gene. People with strong family histories of breast cancer are encouraged to get the test for the BRCA gene.
"It is only if you have a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer," said Dr. Kamila Kozlowski of the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. "It is only if you have a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer," said Dr. Kamila Kozlowski of the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center.

By JESSA LEWIS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Actress Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday she underwent a double mastectomy, in the hopes of preventing breast cancer.

Jolie revealed in the New York Times that she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, an abnormality that increases a woman's likelihood to have breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime.

The Oscar-winning actress had both breasts removed in February and has since had reconstructive surgery.

Tondrea Vance went through a similar scenario, first surviving breast cancer, then discovering she had the BRCA2 mutation.

Vance has been cancer-free for six years, but about a year after she had a partial mastectomy and finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she became worried again.

"I started having bad mammograms, not in the sense that I had cancer, but just findings. So I went and talked to my oncologist about it and she recommended I have the gene test," Vance explained.

She was considered a very low risk for having a BRCA gene mutation - there was no history in her family - but she still tested positive.

"I had already made the decision that I was going to have the mastectomy no matter what if the test came back positive, and it did, so I had to eat those words and I had the surgery about three months later," Vance said.

Doctors say not every woman needs to be tested for the BRCA gene mutations.

"It is only if you have a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer," said Dr. Kamila Kozlowski of the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. "For instance, if you have a first-degree relative, a mother, sister or daughter who had breast cancer, particularly if they were pre-menopausal or if you have more than one relative on the same side of the family with breast cancer."

The blood test itself is expensive, ringing up at about $3,500.

Dr. Kozlowski says most insurance companies now cover most of the cost.

"It would be difficult if they're uninsured and don't have health insurance, it would be difficult for them to cover those costs," added Dr. Kozlowski.

Vance says she did what she had to do to make herself feel better.

"My family went through so much. My mom, she was with me every step of the way. It was hard on her to have to watch her daughter have to go through that, so I just didn't want to put her through that again. I didn't want my family to go through it," Vance said.

Myriad Genetics is the only provider for the test for the BRCA gene mutations in the U.S.

The company offers payment plans or testing at no charge if a patient meets specific medical and financial criteria.

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