Undergoing Prev. Double Mastectomy

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In the midst of woman's health week, actress and director Angelina Jolie reveals that she has undergone a preventive double mastectomy.

Jolie decided on the surgery after discovering she carries the gene that sharply increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. It's a story that a local woman can certainly relate to.

Millions of women and men sat up and took notice this morning when film star and philanthropist Angelina Jolie went public with her decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy.

Women in our area at high-risk for breast cancer do have the option of the elective procedure, but it may not be that simple when dealing with insurance.

25-year-old Serina Tindell had a prophylactic mastectomy. "I have a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy and I had it in February when I was 25."

This local resident took fate, or at least her family history, into her own hands. She has a rare form of tumors called felloidise tumors, which put her at high risk for cancer. “First one was when I was twelve, I had my first lumpectomy and again at 16 and again at 20, and at 25 I had several tumors, I have a very strong family history of breast cancer, my grandmother, several aunts."

She was surprised when she tested negative for the BRCA gene and other genetic markers given her family and immediately began her campaign to get her insurance to cover the procedure she felt would save her life, but it wasn’t easy. "It was a long process. It took me six months for my insurance to finally approve everything for the surgery."

Oncologist Dr. Claudia Mallarino underwent a double mastectomy a couple of months ago and says getting insurance to cover the procedure can be a challenge. "If you have a cancer gene like a BRCA 1 or 2 that makes you at high risk for breast cancer you can get insurance and get your mastectomies done. Some people may increased risk and would like to get mastectomy done, but the insurance may not cover it."

Marie Borcellino of Sarasota Memorial Hospital concurs that there are certain guidelines. "They'll be told no if there’s no history.”

But, what are your options if you are turned down by your insurance company? Is there hope? “That is a question for the certified genetic counselor. She can also identify other familial syndromes and other tests and studies that are available that the patient may be eligible for."

Was the fight with the insurance company worth it for Tindale? "It took lots of work to get my doctor to approve the insurance for the surgery, but well worth it."

Her response to response to women, even those at high-risk who would never consider amputating their breasts because of what may happen. "I think they're silly, I have a loving family and a little girl and husband who I want to spend the rest of my life with. If I can take away one chance of possibly getting breast cancer of course I'm gonna do it."