'I Don't Want To Be Defined By My Breasts'

7:02 PM, May 14, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- After actress Angelina Jolie is bringing preventative mastectomy to the public's radar, one Columbia woman tells her story of having a similar procedure. 

"I don't want to be defined by my breasts," Flossie Harvie said. 

Harvie works at Palmetto Children's Hospital and deals with sick kids every day.

But she never thought it would hit so close to home until her youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I decided to get tested even though at that time I think I was 51 and I met with our genetics counselor and she recommended that I be tested," Harvie said.  

Harvie tested positive for a BRCA 2 gene mutation, which increases the chance of breast and ovarian cancers.

"If there's a change in one of those genes or a mutation in one of those genes then it renders that gene to not work as well and it's a susceptibility towards developing cancer," Victoria Vincent said.

Going to a genetics counselor, like Vincent at USC's School of Medicine, can provide information on what you could be dealing with.

"Only about five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are considered to be due to hereditary breast cancer syndrome or due to genetic susceptibility traits," Vincent said.

"My genetic counselor told me about it when she said that usually people have double mastectomy, I thought there's no way I want to do that, that seems so radical," Harvie said. "But the more I read about it I thought it would be crazy for me not to if my chances went from 87 percent to 10 percent.">

Harvie had both breasts removed and underwent reconstructive surgery.

She even had a hysterectomy to lower her risk of ovarian cancer.

Although she's lessened her chances, she's still worried for her children.

"The good news for me was that my daughter was just tested and she's negative. That was the hardest thing for me to be told that I have this gene mutation, that I had the ability to pass that on to my daughter," Harvie said.

Harvie hopes these preventative measures allow her to be around for a long time.

"I just celebrated my 60th birthday, so I hope I celebrate my 70th, and my 80th and my 90th and feel good," Harvie said.

Genetic testing is only necessary for those people who notice family illness trends.

Initial testing costs between $3,000 and $4,000.

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