The actress, who is a breast cancer survivor and BRCA positive, opened up about the recent precaution she took to prevent herself from developing cancer again.
After Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she chose to have both breasts removed in a double mastectomy, even though cancerous lumps were only found in one. The star recently revealed that she's taken further preventative steps to protect herself from being affected by cancer again.
In an interview with Today, Applegate shared that she chose to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last month. The actress shares that the decision was motivated by her cousin passing away from ovarian cancer, and because she has a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which can greatly increase a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast and or ovarian cancer. (FYI, BRCA1 and BRCA2 aren't the only breast cancer genes.)
While having your ovaries and fallopian tubes removed may sound drastic, it could be the right decision depending on your personal risk factors. Similarly to Applegate, Angelina Jolie also had her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed as a preventative measure against ovarian cancer, both due to her family history with the disease and her BRCA gene mutation. While experts still aren't entirely sure how family history affects our risk for ovarian cancer, the research shows that just having the gene is a significant enough indicator to make the profound decision worth considering, Karen H. Lu, M.D., director of the High Risk Ovarian Cancer Screening Clinic at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, previously explained to us. Specifically, only about 1.3 percent of women in the general population will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer sometime during their lives, compared to 39 percent among women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation, according to most recent estimates.
Applegate shares in the interview that she is also concerned about her daughter's future health. "The chances that my daughter is BRCA positive are very high," she said. "I look at her and feed her the cleanest foods. I try to keep her stress levels down. I'm doing everything I can on my end knowing that in 20 years, she'll have to start getting tested. Hopefully, by then there will be advancements. It breaks my heart to think that's a possibility."
Since surviving breast cancer, Applegate has helped other women by founding the Right Action for Women Foundation, which funds MRI screenings (which she credits with saving her life) for women at high risk for cancer who can't afford them. (She also recently reached out on Twitter after Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.)
The financial barrier when it comes to breast cancer screening is one that Applegate feels desperately needs to be addressed. "We're at this place where we need to sit down and figure out the future of what it is that we're doing and get into more of the BRCA tests for women," she told Today. (Related: Why I Did Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer) "That's a huge cost for a lot of people who don't have perfect insurance. If you do know you have the gene, it gives you an empowerment about your lifestyle. I've been a stay-at-home mom and focusing on my daughter the last two years. We're moving forward now."