Celebrated actress and international sex symbol Angelina Jolie stirred the hearts and minds of many women last Spring when she announced her decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
She stated, “My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman … Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.”
Her outspoken advocacy of the seemingly drastic surgical procedures and activist spirit has spurred many women to become aware of new options due to genetic testing.
What’s In Your Genes?
Let’s take a closer look at the genetic information women are using to make this difficult decision.
1. Jolie’s prognosis was that her BRCA1 (Breast Cancer 1, early onset) and BRCA2 (Breast Cancer 2, early onset) genes were mutated. Scientists now know that this exposed her to an increased risk of breast cancer.
2. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are “members of the tumor suppressor gene family, which regulates cell division and ensures that DNA breaks are corrected error-free.”
3. It is a double edged-sword: “Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 must be mutated for a person to contract Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC).”
Playing The Odds: If both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are mutated, doctors now say cancer is very likely to result. Here are the individual gene statistics:
1. If you carry the BRCA1 mutation, you have a 60 percent lifetime likelihood of developing breast cancer.
2. Moreover, you also have an up-to-60 percent chance of a second breast cancer.
3. Plus, you have a 39 percent chance of ovarian cancer and an increased risk of other cancer types.
4. If you have the BRCA2 mutation, then you teeter on the edge of a 45 percent risk of breast cancer and increased risk of many other types of cancer.
Important New Financial Information About Gene Testing
If you are considering gene testing, you should also be advised to get a thorough and detailed family history. Dr. Weitzel of the The City of Hope Hospital in Duarte stated, “If a patient is considered at risk, it is then up to the patient whether to get tested.” He adds another shining and informative idea, saying that “the better approach is to first test the relative who has already been diagnosed with the disease to see if there is a specific mutation they should be looking for in the second individual.”
The good news for your pocketbook is that with this information from a family member’s test, instead of the entirety of two genes, which holds a $4,000.00 price tag, doctors can see just one spot on the gene. This is because, due to your relative’s test, they know where the mutation exists. This kind of test costs about one-tenth of testing the total gene. Of course, this type of family testing is not always available.
The doctors and staff at Orlando Cosmetic Surgery have been meticulously trained to reconstruct the breast, and this is well-known. Less well-known is that they are also especially trained to “treat the implications of radiation on the breast—not just the mastectomy deformity.”
In the excitement of the discovery and cancer diagnosis of a lump, a woman often faces the difficult choice between:
1. a lumpectomy and radiation
2. or mastectomy.
What Orlando Cosmetic Surgery wants you to know about this choice is that this choice will lasting effects as time goes on.
Dr. Jay Orringer said in a recent issue of Plastic Surgery Practice, “Radiation and the effects of radiation are permanent in nature and often difficult, if not impossible, to correct.” In plain language, you should know that if you develop a second cancer in that same breast or the other one, radiation could adversely affect the quality of your later choice for reconstruction. Reconstruction can still be done, but the prior radiation could affect it.”
Simply put, after recovery, in remission, your personal appearance will gather considerable significance in your psychology. You might want to read our previous blogs on reconstruction if you or a loved one are the midst of making such decisions.
This is only one of the reasons you should have a plastic surgeon on your team from the beginning of your breast cancer diagnosis. See more by visiting this article.
This is also why Orlando Cosmetic Surgery agrees with Dr. Jay Orringer, who was Angelina Jolie’s cosmetic breast reconstruction surgeon. He advises, “Say to your oncologist or surgical oncologist that you would like to have a plastic surgeon included on the team.”
We agree 100%, and we add that you should gather your team early, and be positive that team includes an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon.