Genetic counsellors say more people in Sudbury are getting tested for the breast cancer gene.

The genetic co-ordinator of the Genetic Counselling Services in Sudbury said she’s noticed a difference since movie star Angelina Jolie announced she'd had both breasts removed after testing positive for the BRCA gene.

"It has increased the knowledge of breast cancer," Valerie Allison said. "More and more women were being referred because of this."

Genetic counseling services in Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay have also seen an increase in breast cancer referrals in the last year.

'Not a death sentence'

Sudbury resident Sandy Perreault said she is thinking about getting tested for the gene, after her mother tested positive for it last year.

"Having the breast cancer gene is not one of the worse ones to have," she explained. "Unfortunately, there are some quite debilitating genes out there and this not one of them. So if you’re going to have a cancer, it’s probably one of the better ones to have."

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2012 and also tested positive for the BRCA gene.

Perreault’s sister, Lisa Benoit, who lives in North Bay, is also considering whether she should be tested.

"When I start a family and stuff, eventually I wouldn’t mind getting tested, just to see, just to know," she said.

"It’s not a death sentence, so everything is preventable and so we tried to see the bright side of it. It’s good to know and you can take more precautions."

Between 2005 and 2009, nearly 85 per cent of breast cancer patients at the North East Cancer Centre survived  for at least five years.

Stay tuned to CBC Radio One in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario all this week for more on this story. Our series is called "En(gene)ered" and is airing on Morning North and Points North, as well as on our local newscasts.