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Easton woman relates to Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy

Published On: May 14 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: May 15 2013 06:03:50 AM EDT

Actress Angelina Jolie made headlines Tuesday after revealing she underwent a preventative double mastectomy.


Actress Angelina Jolie made headlines Tuesday after revealing she underwent a preventative double mastectomy.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, the actress said she was found at risk for developing breast cancer due to a 'faulty gene.'

The 'faulty gene' known as BRCA-1 is a tumor suppressor gene which can be inherited and when mutated, no longer suppresses abnormal growth of the cells and therefore cancer is more likely to develop, according to the American Cancer Society.

Turns out Jolie is not alone.

Nicole Armstrong, 27, of Easton, had no idea she was at risk until she saw her older sister Catrina, who was mentally challenged, diagnosed and later die from breast cancer at just 32 years old.

“When my sister was diagnosed, one of her physicians said 'she's too young to have breast cancer, something is going on here,'” said Armstrong.

Because of her age, doctors decided to test Catrina for BRCA-1.

Women with the mutated gene have an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 40 to 60 percent risk of ovarian cancer. When Catrina came back positive, Nicole was tested too, and found out she also was a carrier.

" I was petrified. The doctors were saying 'you have to have your ovaries removed 'cause you have a 60 percent of ovarian cancer, have your breasts removed and if you don't have children, start having children,'" said Armstrong.

For the next two years, Nicole went through a series of MRI's, mammograms, and ultrasounds as preventative measures, but her sister, already at stage 4, lost the battle.

“I use the word luxury, it's not really a good word, but I had the luxury of seeing what could happen to me and there's so many people out there that don't have that, so they don't realize how detrimental it is,” Armstrong said.

After losing her sister, Nicole had both her breasts removed and implants put in place in a bilateral nipple-sparing double mastectomy last spring, very similar to Jolie's procedure.

Armstrong said she doesn't regret undergoing the preventative surgery and thanks her sister for possibly saving her life.

"She gave me the second chance 'cause I wouldn't have known otherwise if she hadn't been diagnosed first so I wanted to do that for her," said Armstrong.

Armstrong now has regular checkups to keep a close eye on the health of her ovaries.

She also volunteers with a non-profit organization called FORCE that helps those affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.