TALLAHASSEE-Fla. (WTXL)--Actress Angelina Jolie's decision to have a preventive double mastectomy impacted women in the big bend. Advocates here say the procedure could help save lives.
Sarah Brown has been teaching dance for 12 years, but when she's not teaching little girls and adults ballet, she's hard at work educating women about breast cancer awareness.
"Every birthday was not a celebration for me, it was almost like that was going to be the year that I was going to be diagnosed and I couldn't live like that any longer," said Brown.
Brown is a previvor, she comes from a family with generations of breast cancer. She lost her great great grandmother, great grandmother, grandmother, and aunt. Brown's mom was diagnosed with the disease 25 years ago. Brown says she had about an 87% percent chance of getting breast cancer.
"Knowing and seeing what the women in our family went through, and knowing that we could make that decision and have that power over our health, it was an empowering decision" said Brown.
That decision led brown and her twin sister to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy in 2009 at age 34. They both had breast tissue removed and replaced with implants.
"Its a very emotional process to go through, to lose that part of your body, its very hard to go through," said Brown.
But doctors like Alfred Johnson, who study women's health says the BRCA test used to identify harmful changes of breast cancer genes could be costly.
"Its about $4000 dollars to have the test run so unless you fit into that high risk category, it probably doesn't make economic sense," said Johnson.
Dr. Johnson says many women do fall under that category so check your family history.
For Brown, she says the surgery meant survival, something she says she did for her family.
"I don't regret it for a second I would do it again," said Brown.
A message she's sending to other women before its too late.
Dr. Johnson and Brown encourages you to talk to someone from your local cancer clinics and the American Cancer Society about programs that may can help cover the costs. Brown also says you should check with your insurance companies to find out if they would cover your BRCA test and procedure.
For more information visit cancer.org.