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Angelina Jolie's Family History Inspires Double Mastectomy

Internationally renowned actress and Brad Pitt’s number-one babe, Angelina Jolie, recently announced that she underwent a double mastectomy surgery. Her decision to have this procedure came several months ago after learning that she is a carrier of a high risk mutated BRCA1 gene—a hereditary inconsistency known to spur critical breast and ovarian cancers.

In 2007, Jolie’s mother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56. Like her daughter, Marcheline Bertrand carried the defunct BRCA1 gene. Her death became highly publicized due to the effect it had on Jolie—she sported a noticeably frailer frame and was rumored to have battled depression. Jolie has since spoken about the death of her mother: "There is no longevity on my mother's side of the family. My grandmother also died young so my mother always thought it could happen to her." At age 37 in April of 2013, Angelina made an emotional choice to undergo a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction to actively intervene in the potential growth of highly fatal tumors.

"My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman,” said Jolie. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy."

THE DETAILS OF A DOUBLE MASTECTOMY

A mastectomy is an operation that removes all or part of the breasts. They are implemented to treat breast cancer. While the surgery makes a dramatic change to a woman’s body, most surgeries are performed with the intention to stop the cancer, rather than merely treating it. The decision to undergo the operation is dependent on varying factors including the size of the breast, amount of lesions, and the aggressiveness (or potential aggressiveness) of the cancer.

Jolie made her mastectomy decision based on the knowledge of her family’s history of breast cancer; knowing that she carries a gene that grows cancerous tumors was enough to lead her to action. BRCAs are called breast cancer susceptibility genes, and are categorized as tumor suppressors. Mutations of these genes are typically linked to ovarian and breast cancers. Jolie learned of her BRCA1 status through a simple blood test.

THE SURGERY

On February 2nd, Jolie began the surgical process with a procedure that preserved her nipples. Two weeks later, she had a procedure that inserted stand-in fillers into her breast, removing the breast tissue. Reconstruction began several months later. Jolie has not revealed many details regarding the reconstruction techniques, but both fat transfers and implants are popular choices for post-mastectomy patients.

Christina Applegate, also a carrier of the mutated BRCA1 gene, underwent a similar preventative procedure in 2008. Other notable breast cancer survivors that underwent single or double mastectomies include Sharon Osborne (2012), Kathy Bates (2012), and Wanda Sykes (2011).

"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options," Jolie said. "I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."

If you or someone you know is concerned about susceptibility to cancer, and would like to research options for preemptive strategies, please contact Breast Augmentation Resources today. Speak with one of our on-call representatives to locate a doctor in your area and schedule a consultation.

 

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