Angelina Jolie effect: Doctors concerned over unnecessary rise in double mastectomies

Posted on 29 May 2014

Angelina Jolie Women with breast cancer are increasingly asking for removal of both breasts, despite there often being no medical reason for the surgery.

Most do not have a genetic or family history putting them at higher risk of the disease, warn experts.

Researchers, who studied 1,447 women treated for breast cancer, found that eight per cent had a double mastectomy and 18 per cent considered the operation.

However 70 per cent did not meet the criteria for losing both breasts, which includes a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or being a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, and they in fact they had a very low risk of developing cancer in the healthy breast.

Advancements in genetic testing are giving women more options when it comes to reducing their risk of developing breast cancer, and with Angelina Jolie publicly announcing her own double mastectomy, awareness of these options is increasing, with the stigma around such procedures reducing.

But a double mastectomy is an extreme procedure which can lead to psychosexual problems in many women and it is not always necessary.

Study leader Dr Sarah Hawley, from the University of Michigan, said having such a procedure “does not make sense”.

“Having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast,” she added.

“For women who do not have a strong family history or a genetic finding, we would argue it’s probably not appropriate to get the unaffected breast removed.”

Dr Anne Rigg, consultant medical oncologist, and Dr Jian Farhadi, consultant plastic surgeon at London Bridge Hospital talk about predicting your risk of developing breast cancer, and the rise in preventative mastectomies.

Read the rest of their interview here.

One Response

  1. seladevi says:

    I’m the school nurse of Taylor’s International School Kuala Lumpur
    would like to organize breast awareness campaign and education in school environment in August 2014.
    Please reply on my suggestion.
    Thanking you.
    Tel no.92862668 ext 103

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