TODAY

TODAY   |  May 14, 2013

Doctor: Jolie’s surgery should inspire discussion

Dr. Alexandra Heerdt, a breast surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, discusses the star’s revelation that she underwent a double mastectomy due to high breast cancer risk.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with more stunning news from angelina jolie that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy. she underwewrote in an op-ed in the "new york times." and we have the lead iing breast cancer researcher. thank you for being with us. a lot of people have questions about this. she's such a well-known figure and she took this very dramatic step. if people are waking up saying, gosh, should i get tested? what if i have the mutation of this gene? what would be your counsel?

>> it's a great place to start. it is important to understand it is just a very small percentage of women who carry this mutation. even those who have a family history of breast cancer and mother or sister do not necessarily carry the gene. a very small percentage of people who would be in this position to make this kind of decision.

>> and we were talking to dr. nancy snyderman , to be tested for this can be very expensive. how do you know if you're a candidate to have the test?

>> i think the important thing is not just deciding on your own to get the test. speak to physicians and gather information. insurance companies do cover the testing if it's appropriate. there are genetic services that exist. you can learn more about it by speaking to someone.

>> let's talk about the procedure. she was quite open in this piece and gave a lot of detail and said this was a three month process of surgeries for her. is that typical?

>> that is typical. it's really important to emphasize, this is not as easy as some of the cosmetic breast procedures done. this is truly a multi-step procedure and there are implications of that multi-step procedure.

>> there have been great advances in terms of breast reconstruction . that's one of the brighter pieces of this.

>> she makes a good point in talking about the fact in many instances we can even spare the nipple these days and newer implants available. the discussion has to center around not only what we can do but also some of the emotional effects of this as well she talks about.

>> this is a separate issue but some what related. there has been some conflict in the medical community how often some women are choosing to get double mastectomy, and some have raised questions not in a case of angelina jolie 's but other cases where women have been too quick to do so. i wonder your perspective on that?

>> it comes down to a real discussion with the physician and understanding risks. i think some women amplify their risks unnecessarily and don't recognize there isn't a high risk . obviously angelina jolie had a high risk of developing cancer and made this decision for that reason but not all women had that kind of risk.

>> always grade to talk to your doctor if you're concerned about it. thank you for being here on short notice.

>>> now, to matt, al and