LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) - Most of us know someone who has fought through treatment after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. But Tuesday, Angelina Jolie announced to the world that she chose to undergo a double mastectomy -- as a preventive measure.
It was a choice she made for her children, a choice that many people say would be a difficult one to make.
"I have no idea. I think it would be an incredibly difficult decision to make. Every woman will have to make that decision for herself. It would be very, very hard," said Dora Lewis of Northampton.
Interactive: Q&A- Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy
Jolie learned she carried a mutated version of the BRCA1 gene. That means she was 87 percent more likely to get cancer-- the disease that took her mother's life when she was just 56 years old.
The average woman has a 12% chance of developing breast cancer in her life, and in the United States, 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be linked to these harmful versions of the BRCA genes; like the one Angelina Jolie inherited.
A genetic blood test can detect these gene mutations, but it costs around $3,500. It is a tool for women with certain risk factors-- like having female relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. But even if genetic testing comes back positive, surgery isn't the only answer.
"Another reasonable option is to do a more intense surveillance. More picture taking with mammograms and MRIs. Women need to know all their options. They need to know what happens if they do A versus B. there's no simple answer to this," said Dr. James Stewart, the chief of Baystate Medical Hematology and Oncology.
Jolie admits that, saying that it wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one for her family.
"I probably would go through that. It's just scary, you see it all the time. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, I think it's great. It's really strong," said Erin Hupfer of East Longmeadow.