In May 2015, American actress Angelina Jolie made a bilateral subcutaneous mastectomy with the permanent implants. She removed both mammary glands and replaced with implants. 40-year-old Jolie had 2 severe reasons for such a step: the promise given to a cancer-dying mother to prevent cancer and the genetic analysis that confirmed the presence of the mutated BRCA1 gene.
Where does the BRCA1 gene mutation come from?
BRCA1 mutation is the main reason for breast and ovarian cancers in 20% of cases. There are 2 significant causes of the BRCA1 mutation: heredity and abnormal lifestyle. Lousy ecology, radiation, obesity, and changes in the hormonal background in women can also become reasons for the gene mutation.
About 80% of the total number of patients with mutant gene BRCA1 or BRCA2 got this anomaly during the life. The case of Angelina Jolie refers to the remaining 20% of patients when the cause of the gene mutation is heredity.
Reasons to remove a breast
The main reason for eliminating mammary glands is the preservation of a patient's life and the maximum possible preservation of its quality.
Remove a breast with a prophylactic goal, a woman with confirmed evidence of geneticists may decide after she will conduct a genetic analysis.
Some oncologists are skeptical about this radical method because the removal of the breast, in this case, is the preventive method and may provoke severe psychological complications in a woman. Opponents of the precautionary breast removal critics appeal to the fact that it is a method guaranteeing the safety of a woman.
Specialists define some indicators for preventive mastectomy:
- when the risk of developing breast cancer threatens woman health and life;
- indications for preventive mastectomy are also signs indicating an increased risk of developing breast cancer (atypical ductal hyperplasia or atypical lobular hyperplasia).
"Regardless of the hormone replacements I'm taking; I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. "- wrote Angelina Jolie an op-ed for the The New York Times newspaper. Angelina Jolie also underwent removing the ovaries procedure.
There, the mother of 6 children wrote that she decided to undergo mastectomy because the removal of the breast helped her to reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 5%. It is important to mention that the operation does not guarantee 100% elimination of the risk of hereditary cancer.
Breast cancer facts and statistics
Timely diagnostics of breast cancer save women life. The detection of the breast lumps during the initial examination at the first stage of the disease allows achieving a stable remission in 85% of patients. Breast cancer may also occur in men (1% of all cases).
According to statistics, the peak of detection of breast cancer is primarily typical in women after 45 years. Therefore, experts recommend women regularly to undergo a mammalogist examination.
Recommendations for a mammalogist visit:
- women from 40 to 44 years old are recommended to do mammography (chest X-ray), but this is optional;
- for 45 -54-aged women the mammogram is necessary (once a year);
- women over 55 years old should undergo examination once in 2 years.
Angelina Jolie Pitt in her "Diary of Surgery" wrote: “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power."
It is essential to understand that such a serious decision, like breast removal, should be taken only after verified diagnostic results. Women also can consult with several mammalogists and get a second opinion.