Stephen McCulley, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon. MBChb, FCS(SA)Plast, FRCS(plast)

Angelina Jolie Has Risk-Reducing Double Mastectomy

Hollywood actress Angelia Jolie has revealed today that she has had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer, an illness which took her mother’s life at just 56.

Due to the history of cancer in her family, doctors informed Angelina, 37, that she had an 87% risk of getting breast cancer. In an open letter to The New York Times, the actress and director wrote, “I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer… My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. 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.”

A Difficult Choice

Due to Angelina having a higher risk of breast cancer than ovarian cancer and breast surgery being more complex, she chose to have the mastectomy surgery first, and began treatment in February. Since completing the surgery, Angelina’s chances of developing breast cancer have reduced from 87% to under 5% and the reconstructive surgery means the mother of six is left with only small scars.

Angelia, who hopes her story will inform and give comfort to other women considering or going through this surgery, said “I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity… For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. 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.”

Not Alone

Angelina Jolie is not the only high profile woman to open up about taking risk-reducing surgery for breast cancer. Speaking in The Guardian in 2012, Sharon Osborne stated how a double mastectomy was a “no brainer” for her after genetic tests revealed she had a gene which predisposes women carrying it to developing breast cancer.

According to the NHS, around 18,000 mastectomies were carried out from 2010 – 2011, along with 2,000 breast reconstruction operations.


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