A celebrity shines a light on a personal choice facing a select group of women


Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Randall Barnes

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. - A big name celebrity is making headlines for revealing her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Angelina Jolie wrote about what she calls a life-saving choice in a New York Times op-ed article.

While she's one of the most famous women to do it, she's certainly not the only woman to choose this procedure as a preventative measure. Doctors say there's a small, select group who are prime candidates. A local woman going through the same surgical process says, like Jolie, she's glad she chose to do it.

Terri Thorpe said, "Barbara was diagnosed in her 30s. Donna was diagnosed in her 40s. My mother was diagnosed in her 50s, and Judy was diagnosed in her 60s." This year, Thorpe decided she didn't want to be next. "It's important because it cuts my chances of breast cancer by 90 percent," she said. 

Thorpe had a double mastectomy in January and will begin reconstruction soon. "You can either go larger, or you can go smaller when you have this done," she said.

Though Thorpe said the decision was easy, doctors said it's one only a small number of women will face. "It's really limited to a small group of patients at very high risk to develop breast cancer," said Dr. Peter Locken.

It benefits women like Jolie and Thorpe who have cancer in their genes, but now, a much smaller chance of developing it. Dr. Locken said, "The surgery is very widely and readily available, and surgeons have become talented and skilled at getting an excellent result."

Thanks to vigilant doctors, her support system, and her sense of humor, Thorpe said she knows she made the right choice. "If it's gonna keep me from having to go through the difficulties that I saw several friends go through, it has been well worth it," she said. 

Most insurance companies will cover the mastectomy and the reconstruction surgery, plus any touch ups needed down the road for women with such strong family ties to breast cancer. For all the others, doctors encourage regular cancer screenings. The Marshall County Health Department, where Thorpe works, offers income-based cancer screenings.