OGDEN -- If someone said you have a 90 percent chance of being in a car accident and you may or may not die, but you can have work done on your car to reduce your risk to 2 percent, would you do it?
That's how Nicole Batty explains a comparison others may be able to relate to when talking about her decision to get a double mastectomy two years ago.
Batty, 33, of North Ogden, had tested positive for a mutation of the BRCA2 gene, which means she has a higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer compared with the rest of the general population.
Because of her test results, she opted to have a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery.
"My first instinct was to do whatever I had to to be around for my family, which was followed by the logical decision of a prophylactic breast mastectomy based off the data and my risk," she said.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. Mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, according to the National Institute of Health.
The Breast Cancer Alliance also reports that about 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Of those, seven to 10 percent will have an inherited predisposition, and more than half of those will result from detectable mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
The Alliance states that inheriting these mutations does not mean someone will automatically develop cancer but that the risk does increase. Women with the BRCA mutation will also have a 10 to 60 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
Earlier this month, actress Angelina Jolie went public about her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy after discovering she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which increased her chances of developing breast cancer by 87 percent and ovarian cancer by 50 percent.
"I agree and support her 100 percent," Batty said, "although that course of action is not for everyone and there are other options such as surveillance."
Batty's testing was done through Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, and her surgery was done at St. Mark's Hospital, also in Salt Lake City.
Surgery went well for the most part, although Batty said she suffered from a pinched nerve in her armpit, which caused temporary problems with numbness and arm movement.
"It is a relief knowing that my risk of breast cancer is 2 percent," she said.
"I am thankful for research companies like Myriad (that) give me a chance to change my future. You don't have to be a celebrity, rich or have health insurance to obtain genetic counseling. Myriad has a financial assistance program for appropriate patients, and they have provided thousands of free tests to low-income and uninsured patients."
Tracey Kartchner, 56, of Ogden, also got a preventive double mastectomy in 2010 after learning she carries the BRCA2 mutation.
Because ovarian cancer runs in her family -- her mother died from pancreatic cancer at age 52, and she herself was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 46 -- she opted to be tested and found out her risk was also much higher than the general population.
"My doctor had found some lumps in my breasts three years in a row and told me I should think about getting tested," she said.
"I was really surprised at the results of the test because there was no breast cancer in my family, so I guess I was a little naive thinking that I wasn't at risk. I also wasn't really aware of the relationship between breast and ovarian cancer."
Kartchner went through the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Myriad Genetics for her testing and had her surgery done at Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton.
Fortunately, she said, the lumps in her breasts were found to be free of cancer.
Kartchner decided not to have reconstructive surgery.
"My body has never really been an issue for me, so I based my decision solely on the fact that I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder for cancer my whole life," she said.
"This is one thing I took care of when I needed to. I wanted to be happy in my own skin. When they found the ovarian cancer, it was in the early stages, so I didn't have to have chemo or radiation, so I feel like I've been lucky to skirt cancer once again."
Kartchner said Jolie's decision was refreshing for her as well.
"She really helped me see it from a different light because, at first, I kept wondering how much of my decision was based on fear," she said.
"But with her opening up and more people coming forward, it brings even more assurance that I made the right decision."