This week, Angelina Jolie, actress, director and mother of six children, published an Op-Ed with the New York Times revealing her decision to pursue preventive mastectomies in order to lower her risk of breast cancer. Her mother had fought and died from cancer, and with hereditary risks and the discovery of Jolie’s mutated BRCA gene, her risk of breast cancer was an astounding 87 percent. Unaffected by preventive mastectomies, her risk of ovarian cancer remains at a high 50 percent.
Jolie cites a National Cancer Institute fact sheet about preventive mastectomies in her piece, which defines the procedure as “the surgical removal of one or both breasts. It is done to prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at high risk of developing the disease.”
After her surgeries to remove her breast tissue, expanders were inserted to stretch the skin, allowing breasts to be reconstructed with implants.
There are a number of factors that go into making a decision such as Jolie’s about preventative measures to lower risk of breast cancer. Undergoing any surgical procedure, such as mastectomies, have their own inherent physical and emotional risks. Cost can also be a concern, as her test for the BRCA1 gene is not always covered by insurance, and not all insurance companies choose to cover preventive mastectomies or reconstruction procedures directly resulting from these preventive mastectomies.
One concern the doctors of The Plastic Surgery Group can immediately address is the feared loss of femininity with the loss of natural breast tissue. Reconstructive breast procedures have dramatically improved, and skilled plastic surgeons can recreate breasts that remain natural looking. Clothed, the recreated breasts may appear no different at all, and bare, scarring can be minimized and nipples preserved or recreated.
Should you be considering preventive mastectomies, schedule a consultation with a plastic surgeon to understand what your individual reconstruction process would look like. Will you have your breasts reconstructed immediately after the mastectomy? A few weeks after, or months later? Understand the plastic surgeon’s history of working with the general surgeon who will be responsible for the mastectomy, and look at before and after photos of your potential surgeons’ patients to see their reconstructive work.
We know that the decision to undergo preventive mastectomies is not a decision taken lightly, and our plastic surgeons will make sure that you are emotionally prepared to undergo the procedure, as will your general surgeon, and no one will pressure you to make a decision with which you are not comfortable. Should you choose to move forward with the preventative procedure, our reconstructive surgeons will be there after your mastectomies to help you feel yourself as soon as possible. It is our goal to protect both your health and happiness.
If Angelina Jolie’s story or your own personal experience has caused you to have any questions, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.