Unlock the secrets of your genes! Get exclusive details on Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy and learn how to proactively reduce your risk of breast cancer. Plus, the “designer baby” debate: When does genetic screening cross the line?
The Angelina Effect Angelina Jolie's announcement that she decided to undergo a double mastectomy after discovering she carried a BRCA gene mutation led millions of women to take a strong look at their family history and take action — a phenomenon called "The Angelina Effect ." Surgical breast specialist and Angelina's surgeon Dr. Kristi Funk joins the show to discuss her patient’s decision. “We all have BRCA genes,” Dr. Funk explains. “When they function correctly, they’re kind of like babysitters for your DNA, and when a breast or ovarian cell mutates, BRCA will swoop in and either fix it or throw it away.” When BRCA is broken, however, those mutated cells can stay and multiply, leading to cancer.
BRCA mutation carriers have a highly elevated cancer risk, particularly for breast and ovarian cancer. The mutation affects both men and women, leaving carriers with the difficult decision between surveillance or removing the organs at risk.
It has been reported that people who have a BRCA gene mutation have an 87 percent risk for developing cancer, but geneticist Dr. Ora Gordon, director of the Genrisk Genetics Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, explains that 87 percent represents the most extreme circumstance, and that most people don’t have that lifetime risk. "Every single person, even if they have the exact same mutation, has a different risk, and every treatment has to be individuated," she says.
• Learn more about breast cancer.
Facing Your Fears
Sisters Tara, Jenny and Shannon watched their mother and two aunts battle breast cancer at the same time, and ultimately lost their mother to the disease. They put off getting tested for the BRCA mutation for six years, living in anxiety and denial about their potential health situation. Youngest sister Shannon says she feels like she and her sisters are a “walking time bomb.” The three sisters decide to get tested and join The Doctors to find out their fate.
Watch as E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork reveals the results of each sister’s test, and hear how they react to the information.
Next Generation Sequencing
Married couple David and Marybeth struggled for years to conceive a child, eventually turning to in vitro fertilization to help grow their family. They join the show, along with fertility specialist Dr. Michael Glassner, to discuss their experience bringing forth the world’s first baby born through Next Generation Sequencing, a new type of embryonic genetic testing.
Millions of Americans struggle with the distress of infertility. Even with in vitro fertilization, 70-80 percent of embryos will not implant or carry to term. New genetic tests, including Next Generation Sequencing, can radically improve the odds of a healthy, full-term pregnancy … but where do we draw the line? The Doctors debate the pros, cons and ethical considerations of embryonic genetic testing.
• What do you think about embryonic genetic testing? Share your thoughts in the comments!