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Genetics Counseling For Cancer And The Decision To Have Preventive Surgery

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National Human Genome Research Institute
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Cancer is cruel and it impacts the lives of far too many people and their families.  According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer kills 458,000 people each year.

Recently, actress and director Angelina Jolie, in a New York Times op-ed entitled My Medical Choice, announced she received a double mastectomy in order to minimize her risk of getting breast cancer.

Jolie has a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.  Her mom died from the disease at the age of 56.

While Jolie encourages women to make their own informed choices, her decision has spawned an emotional debate about the need of preventive surgery as well as the costs associated with the process.

Host Don Marsh talked with two local women who shared their stories about cancer, genetics and what is involved in making a very personal decision.

Joanne Kelly is an oncology nurse at Saint Louis University Hospital.  She underwent a preventive double mastectomy and hysterectomy because of her genetic risk of getting cancer.

Kelly’s genetics counselor was Suzanne Mahon, a genetics expert who directs the Saint Louis University Cancer Center’s Heredity Cancer Screening Program.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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