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Angelina Jolie and Preventing Breast Cancer

Angelina Jolie recently announced that she underwent a double mastectomy after she found out she has the BRCA1 gene, which highly increases the chance of developing breast cancer. Angelina’s mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer and Angelina wanted to save herself and her family from the struggle so she could be around for her six children and husband, Brad Pitt. The surgery decreased Angelina’s chance of developing breast cancer from 87% to under 5%. She did have reconstruction surgery, so even though she doesn’t have her original set of breasts, she still feels like a woman!

There are several different types of mastectomies. The term “mastectomy” is defined as a surgery where some or all of the breast tissue is removed, and a double mastectomy is the removal of both breasts. The skin sparing mastectomy removes all of the breast tissue except for the breast skin, a nipple-sparing mastectomy removes all of the breast tissue except for the nipple and the areola. Another form of mastectomy is the modified radical mastectomy, where both breast tissues and the lymph node in the underarm are removed. It’s important to know that there are many types of mastectomies and if you are planning to get one you should discuss the options with your doctor to understand which one is best for you.

As in Angelina’s case, a mastectomy can be done for prevention, not just for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Men can also get mastectomies. It is definitely less common for men to get mastectomies than women, but it’s good to know that this surgery is not just for women. According to unpublished data that was released to CNN, the number of patients wanting a preventative mastectomy has risen from 8% in 2010 to 12.6% in 2011, and 14% in 2012.

If you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family it is very important to get genetic testing done. In Angelina’s case, her mother passed away from ovarian cancer, which is known as the silent killer, is also something you should be regularly screened for if you have a history of it in your family. Genetic testing won’t hurt and it will definitely be beneficial to your health in the long run!

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