Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy continues to raise awareness

Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy continues to raise awareness

Celebrity gossip columns are filled with the latest news on relationships and fashion styles, but every so often they can offer important educational information.

In 2013, Angelina Jolie made headlines worldwide for her decision to have a double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA 1 gene, which increased her risk of developing breast cancer. While this created a buzz around genetic testing, it also raised awareness breast reconstruction options available to women after a mastectomy.

A recent survey polled women before and after Jolie’s announcement. Before the news broke, 57.6 percent of women knew that breast reconstruction could be done using a woman’s own tissue instead of breast implants. This number increased to 68.9 percent after her surgery.

In addition, the number of women who knew that reconstruction could occur at the same time as a mastectomy increased from 40.5 percent to 59.5 percent. Approximately 20 percent of women also said that Jolie’s announcement made them “deal more intensively with the topic of breast cancer.”

“Women now have quite a few options for reconstruction if their surgeon has determined that they will need a mastectomy,” says Dr. Heidi Memmel, breast surgeon with Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “Not too long ago, immediate reconstructions were often not being offered and reconstruction was performed later after additional cancer therapy was completed.

“We now are able to offer most women immediate reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy, if they desire a reconstruction. This allows for a better cosmetic result, and less surgeries.”

There are several options when it comes to reconstruction, and whether it occurs immediately depends on a variety of factors including the stage of the cancer and what treatment a woman will need after surgery. The size and shape of a woman’s breast, as well as any previous surgery and a patient’s preference, are all taken into account.

“Some options for reconstruction may involve several small surgeries down the road,” Dr. Memmel says. “Some may have a shorter healing time, and allow women to get back to their normal activity sooner. When discussing with a woman whether or not to have immediate reconstruction, I always discuss their goals of reconstruction.”

Some of these include the importance for them to have their breasts look as much like their current breast as possible, which may take several surgeries, or do they just want a new breast that fits well in a bra and looks fine under clothing.

“Through advances in technologies and working closely with breast surgeons, we have been able to make significant improvements leading to reconstructions that far exceed what was possible just a few years ago,” says Dr. Lawerence Iteld, plastic surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.

To learn more about breast health, visit Stories of the Girls.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.