Is Preventative Surgery the Answer to Breast Cancer?
It’s no doubt that the news of Angelina Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy back in May has affected a lot of women globally.
Many wouldn’t have previously considered such a dramatic procedure to prevent them from getting breast cancer, but it seems the Jolie effect is catching on as more and more women are considering mastectomies as a preventative option.
What is a mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the complete or partial removal of one or both breasts. There are many different types, and what kind a patient had is always discussed with a doctor in depth. Mastectomies are most commonly performed as a form of treatment for patients who are already suffering from breast cancer. However, preventative mastectomies are not unheard of, and recent attention has been drawn to the procedure by celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate.
How effective are preventative mastectomies?
A preventative mastectomy can reduce a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer by around 90%, however it can never be guaranteed that any woman who has undergone a mastectomy won’t develop breast cancer in their lifetime despite having had the surgery. Angelina Jolie’s surgery caused her chances of developing breast cancer to drop from 87% to under 5%, which she is reportedly very pleased with as she has recently spoken out about her desire to be there for her family for as long as she possibly can be.
Who should be considering it?
Angeline Jolie decided to have a double mastectomy after discovering she had the faulty BRCA1 gene, which consequently put her at high risk of developing breast cancer. If a woman, like Jolie, undergoes genetic testing for breast cancer at somewhere like The Genetic Testing Laboratory and is discovered to have the high risk BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, then they will often opt for a preventative mastectomy.
Women who have previously had breast cancer in one breast are most likely to have the other removed, as their chances of developing it in their remaining breast are significant. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer, or even ovarian cancer, then they are also at high risk of developing the disease, and more and more are opting for preventative surgery.
Need more information?
This is by no means a definitive guide or a comprehensive list of the women who may be at high risk of developing breast cancer, but if it’s something you’re worried about you can find much more information on The National Cancer Institute website. A mastectomy is not something that should be taken lightly, and you’ll need to discuss your options in depth with your doctor if you think it might be something you’d like to do.