ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The genetic threat of breast cancer prompted world famous actress Angelina Jolie to take a major step.
She has secretively had a preventive double mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery.
Jolie carries a gene that gave her an 87% risk of breast cancer and her mother died at age 56 of ovarian cancer.
In St. Louis, a local mother was making the same kind of choice. What once was seen as surgery only to remove cancerous breast tissue is now an option for those at risk of developing breast cancer down the road.
The preventive double mastectomy offers hope while reducing anxiety.
Wife, mother, young woman in her 30s with much life to live, characteristics shared by actress Angelina Jolie and Lake St. Louis resident Kristen Caleo.
Both women also share an above normal risk of developing breast cancer. Jolie with the BRCA-1 gene and Caleo with a cyst forming disease known as juvenile papillomatosis.
Washington University surgeons removed Caleo's breasts and completed breast reconstructive surgery in the same operation in January. She is already back working out, running and keeping up with her seven and five year old children.
Doctors say Jolie's decision to go public will benefit many women around the country and the world.
So what is the BRCA-1 gene and how can it increase a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancers?
The National Cancer Institute says BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 are types of tumor-suppressing genes.
Normally a woman is a good candidate for the testing with a family history of cancer.
For her mastectomy, Jolie chose to do a new, less radical procedure known as the skin saving mastectomy.
The mastectomy leaves the women looking as if they've just gone for breast augmentation.
The outside is left the same, and the breast tissue removed and replaced with implants and for the most part the scar is very small or hidden.
What happens to St. Louisans who may receive news that they have the BRCA gene or breast cancer, but don’t have insurance?
Gateway to Hope provides care and healing to uninsured and underinsured breast cancer patients and those at high risk for breast cancer. For more information visit their website at www.gthstl.org or call 314-569-1113.
Founded in 2005 by two prominent local surgeons, Gateway to Hope has more than 165 partners in the St. Louis area who have teamed up to help people with breast cancer. Doctors and hospitals donate their time and services. They come together to help our community. Services provided include lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, chemotherapy and/or radiation, drug therapy and genetic testing.