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'Angelina Jolie effect' boosts BRCA1 screening numbers in Montreal

03/26/2015 12:46 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
Angelina Jolie's story about inheriting a gene that dramatically increases her chances of developing ovarian and breast cancer is having a positive effect in Montreal, health care professionals say.

Women are seeking advice in greater numbers thanks to what some are calling the “Jolie effect.”

“I’ve never quite heard it termed that before, but yes, since she’s come forward to share her story, we’ve definitely seen a spike in the referrals to our genetic counselling and also for families seeking assistance,” Dr. Shannon Salvador, a gynecological oncologist at the Jewish General Hospital, told Daybreak on Thursday.

"It's not something that I think was generally known outside of people who had already been seeking treatment for gynecological cancers."

After going public two years ago with the fact that she got a double mastectomy, the Oscar-winning actor revealed earlier this week she had undergone more preventive surgery, having her ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed in hopes of reducing her risk of cancer.

Her mother died of ovarian cancer, and her maternal grandmother also had ovarian cancer — strong evidence of an inherited, genetic risk that led the actress to undergo preventative surgery to try to avoid the same fate.

Only a small percentage of women inherit the same faulty gene as Jolie. Known as BRCA1, the name stands for "breast cancer susceptibility gene."

The average woman has a 12 per cent risk of developing breast cancer sometime during her life. Women who have inherited a faulty BRCA1 gene are about five times more likely to get breast cancer.

Listen to the full Daybreak interview with Salvador and Nathalie Sofer, an NDG resident who underwent surgery herself after her mother died from ovarian cancer.

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