BOSTON (CBS) — Angelina Jolie’s choice to undergo a preventative double mastectomy has shed new light on this difficult medical decision.
Jolie decided to have the surgery as a mother with six children, but there are many women taking this brave step who are barely out of their teens.
Allyn Rose is one of those women. A former Miss America contestant, Rose’s body is an important part of her identity. Still, she is going ahead with this difficult decision to have both of her breasts surgically removed.
“That’s the scary thing for a 24-year-old, especially who doesn’t have children, someone who’s not married,” she said.
Allyn lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just 51. Allyn was just 16.
“One of the last things she said to be was to watch after my little brother. I took her hand and I said, ‘Mom, I’ll take care of Zion. I’ll take care of dad. It’s OK for you to go now’,” she recalled.
Shortly after losing her mom, Allyn learned she inherited the same rare genetic mutation that caused her mother, grandmother and great aunt to get breast cancer. Her story echoes that of actress Angelina Jolie who announced earlier this month that she had the surgery.
Allyn said her father was terrified she would die just like her mother and encouraged her to have the surgery.
“He said, ‘I want you to be alive. I think It’s a good decision for you. Please do this,” she remembered.
Breast cancer specialist, Dr. Kristen Fernandez says women with the gene mutation have an 85 percent higher chance of getting the disease.
“So if you can tell a woman that is her risk, sometimes the surgical decision is a little easier,” she said.
Dr. Fernandez also said she’s seeing younger women making this decision because they want to be around for their kids or they want to have kids.
“They’re saying ‘my breasts aren’t that important. I want to be alive 30 years from now,” she said.
Allyn said ultimately, she didn’t want to live in fear for the rest of her life.
“It’s like a ticking time bomb for me. It was never a question of if, but when. I don’t want this looming over my shoulder for the rest of my life,” she said.
Genetic testing to determine if you have this potentially deadly disease can cost $3,000 or more, but it reduces the risk of getting breast cancer by more than 90%.