Angelina Jolie puts breast cancer prevention in the spotlight

By: Megan Palera

Angelina Jolie made headlines Tuesday when she announced she had a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. But not every one agrees that surgery is the right answer.

Lauren Bowman of Lincoln is a mom to one already with another baby on the way. She stays active, eats healthy and takes care of herself not only for her kids, but to stay cancer-free.

“My mom carried it and I found out as far back as my great-grandmother had it and they've all passed away from cancer,” Bowman said.

Last year, the 29-year-old decided to find out her odds. She tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene which puts her at high risk for breast cancer. Her number was in the high 80's like Jolie's. But preventative surgery never crossed Bowman's mind. She saw her mom battle cancer not once but twice, even after a mastectomy.

“I'm only 29. I don't want to disfigure myself and have to live with those scars based on a what-if scenario,” Bowman said.

But what's right for Bowman, may not be the right choice for other women at risk for breast cancer. The Cancer Institute at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center hopes Jolie's story inspires other women to take control of their bodies.

“Even if a woman is not comfortable having the surgery, there are other things we can do to help screen for cancer and detect it at an early stage,”Certified Genetic Counselor Stephanie Percich said.

St. E's not only offers genetic testing but a counseling program. Before any blood is drawn, counselors make sure every patient understands what the results could lead to. Bowman says the greatest tool she has is knowing her odds.

“Knowing about your body and the things that could happen to you is the number one preventative measure that you could take,” Bowman said.