On first glance, the last thing 37-year-old Angelina Jolie needs is cosmetic surgery. Thousands of women turn to surgery to replicate her beautiful features. Many were shocked when the actress announced her secret preventive double mastectomy in a first person account in the New York Times this week.
After learning that she carried a gene putting her at higher risk of developing breast cancer, the disease to which she lost her mother, Jolie made the decision to have both of her breasts removed. “Preventative mastectomy is often recommended when it is determined that patient is a carrier of the ‘faulty’ BRCA gene, like Jolie. It is important to note that there are likely many other genes that can lead to a genetic pre-disposition to breast cancer, but these genes have yet to be identified,” explains Kirkland, WA, plastic surgeon Sarah McMillan, MD.
For three months she underwent medical treatment related to the mastectomies, which included a “nipple delay” procedure to save the nipples as well as a major operation to remove breast tissue. Her final surgery involved breast reconstruction with implants. “Mastectomy patients may choose saline or silicone filled implants with smooth or textured surfaces in round or tear drop (anatomical) shapes. The choice is governed by their desires and their anatomy,” says Encino, CA, plastic surgeon George Sanders, MD. “Either implant would provide a very natural reconstruction and symmetry,” adds St. Petersburg, FL, plastic surgeon Jeremy A. Benedetti, MD.
And while we know it was not Jolie’s intention to enhance the look of her breasts, it’s likely that she was able to improve upon their appearance. “It has been my experience that in women like Jolie, their breasts can look better. But that is never the reason to do this procedure; the reason to do the procedure is to minimize the risks of breast cancer,” says Dr. Benedetti, who advises to always choose a board-certified plastic surgeon. “I have not examined her but if she did lose volume and develop some breast droop from having children and/or breast feeding, this could be improved with this type of surgery,” Dr. Benedetti explains.
We predict Jolie will still require some medical attention down the road. As with most surgeries, follow-up treatment is usually recommended. “This may involve yearly visits with her doctor and periodic MRIs or ultrasounds to check on the implants (every 3 to 10 years). Other follow-up visits for medical reasons related to her slight chance of developing breast cancer will probably be more frequent,” says Dr. Sanders.
According to Jolie, her chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 to less than 5 percent. “The decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made,” she says.
The actress claims to have shared her story to promote awareness of the disease and the treatment options available. “This courageous act by Jolie will do much to educate women about the options available to women who have breast cancer or are at high risk for developing the disease. Much of the fear of deformity that results from surgery will hopefully be laid to rest,” says Dr. Sanders.
What do you think of Jolie’s decision?