Journalist Jenna Wolfe, who tested positive for BRCA1 gene mutation, says she underwent a mastectomy following hysterectomy
UPDATE: On Wed., April 12, Wolfe shared that she underwent a mastectomy.
She posted a photo of herself from her hospital bed to Instagram, writing, "Mastectomy behind me. All that's left now is recovery and healing… The most important part. The hardest part. I FaceTimed with my kids tonight and the little said to me, 'you always say we can do hard things, mama. Now we’re telling you the same thing. You got this. We love you.'"
Jenna Wolfe just made a major health decision.
The former Today show correspondent took to Instagram on Wednesday to reveal that she underwent a hysterectomy, a procedure to remove one’s uterus.
“About a month ago, I tested positive for the BRCA-1 breast cancer gene (meaning my chances of getting breast and ovarian cancer are… well… really high), leaving me little wiggle room to ‘mull over my choices,’” the fitness expert explained in the caption of a photo taken at the hospital. “So without a ton of options, I stared down my fears, took a deep breath and opted for two pretty big surgeries.”
The first surgery was her hysterectomy. Though she did not name the “bigger surgery” she would have in her caption, she wrote that she would be back for it in two weeks.
“Something like this spins your head a few whirls,” Wolfe continued. “Am I going to be ok? Will I heal? Will I ever have the drive I once had? I mean, a big chunk of my life is based around fitness and wellness. . I know I make it all look ‘cute’ on social media… but we all know it’s usually far from cute. Especially with kids. Half the time, I’m up at 4:30am, sneaking in a quick workout before the kids get up, grabbing anything edible, racing to school, often times half dressed, most of the time half-witted.”
Though the 49-year-old shared she’s “a little scared,” she noted that “safety never challenged anyone” or allowed them to grow.
“These two surgeries are just the latest in what has been… let’s call it a challenging two years for me,” Wolfe, who shares two daughters with her partner and NBC foreign correspondent Stephanie Gosk, explained. “But with anything in life, the only way is through. And I’m going through. I realize everyone has a story. This is mine. (Well, it’s part of mine). As I embark on it, I’ll be thinking about you and yours.”
Wolfe’s story is a common one for many people who learn they have a mutation in one of their two BRCA genes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the BRCA genes are tumor-suppressing, and when working properly, they keep breast, ovarian and other types of cells from growing, changing or dividing rapidly. Mutations in the genes, however, can lead to an increased risk of cancer. All women have BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but only some women have mutations in those genes.
William L. Dahut, MD, who serves as chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, tells Yahoo Life that while some people with heavy bleeding, fibroids, pelvic plain or a prolapse of the uterus may undergo the surgery, “women with the BRCA1 gene are at higher risk for an aggressive form of uterine cancer and thus may opt for a prophylactic hysterectomy.”
“Most people go home after about two days after the surgery with full recovery usually in about 6 weeks,” says Dr. Dahut of the surgery.
While the link between ovarian and breast cancer was discovered for the BRCA gene mutations in the mid-90s, a 2016 study led by a Duke Cancer Institute researcher first conclusively linked a small but significantly increased risk of uterine cancer to the genes in 2016.
According to Dr. Abu-Rustum, Chief of Gynecology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the BRCA gene mutations are passed down from one’s parents.
“People can be tested for these genes using a blood test in the setting of a qualified genetic consult or expert health care provider who can explain the results and ramifications,” he notes.
Dr. Abu-Rustum adds that other risk-reducing surgeries include removal of the breasts, fallopian tubes and ovaries — procedures that Wolfe may or may not undergo.
“If you remove the uterus, the individual cannot carry children anymore,” he notes. “[However,] the eggs are made in the ovaries, not the uterus. Many times, in similar cases the affected individuals have evaluations with reproductive endocrinology specialists to remove and freeze eggs before prophylactic surgery. If you have your own eggs frozen, you can use them to achieve a pregnancy inside your own uterus or a surrogate carrier.”
While Wolfe made a difficult health decision, her followers — many of whom also learned they have a BRCA gene mutation — applauded her candor. One wrote, “I’m also BRCA+ and the decisions to have my preventative surgeries were the hardest but also the most satisfying. Knowing that I will be predicting my future and preventing having to tell my girls I have cancer were one of the many reasons. My mom passed away from pancreatic cancer last June and she was one of the strongest people I know. If it weren’t for her I would not have known I was brca+. She basically gave her life so we could save ours.”
Another shared, “Jenna, I also recently received a positive gene mutation news as well. I am scheduled for my double mastectomy on April 20th. One day and one step at a time.”
“Best wishes to you,” posted a third fan. “The fact that you’ve taken such amazing care of yourself will help tremendously. I had a hysterectomy and was walking 3-5 miles a day after about 10-12 days. You have an additional surgery, but you will do great! This is why we take care of ourselves. Life throws us curveballs- we catch them and show them who is boss."
This story was originally published on Thursday, March 30 at 7:21 p.m. ET and has been updated to include new information.
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