Angelina Jolie undergoes double mastectomy after learning she carries a high risk cancer gene

30th May 2013

Updated on 30th March, 2020 (Breast Cancer statistics updated).

Angelina Jolie underwent reconstructive surgery following her double breast removal, the process taking a couple of months in total.  Sadly for Angelina she carried the BRCA1 (Breast Cancer 1) gene, this "faulty gene" sharply increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  Angelina said "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."   Women that carry the BRCA1 gene have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. 

Angelina Jolie shares double mastectomy experience

Angelina sadly lost her own mother, Marcheline Bertrand to breast cancer.  Her mother battled ovarian and breast cancer for nearly eight years, she died aged 56.  Angelina Jolie also lost her grandmother and aunt to cancer, it is just so heartbreaking and unfortunately so many women go through this.  Angelina kindly made her experience public so she could raise awareness and save lives.  After learning that she had such a high chance of developing cancer she made the brave decision to have her breast tissue removed, to protect herself. 

Angelina said to New York Times "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can now tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."

According to the World Health Organisation, Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women each year. "In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer, that is approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women. While breast cancer rates are higher among women in more developed regions, rates are increasing in nearly every region globally."

Breast cancer is also the most common cancer in the UK.  It represented 15% of all new cancer cases in 2017.  In the UK around 54,700 new cases of breast cancer in women were diagnosed in 2017, please see www.breastcanceruk.org.uk for more facts and statistics. 

According to Breast Cancer UK, a woman born after 1960 and living in the UK has an estimated 1 in 7 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.  With this level of risk, you can understand why women need to consider drastic actions if they have an even higher chance of developing breast cancer, especially if it runs in their family.  Angelina told New York Times that she wanted other women to know that they now have options. 

Angelina said, "I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.  Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."

It is also of paramount importance that you are vigilant and check your own breasts.  I personally detected a lump in my own breast, and immediately got it seen by a doctor, who then referred me to the hospital for a mammogram, and then an operation to have it removed.  Luckily it was not cancerous but they were concerned that it could develop and said it was best to get the lump removed.  It is important that you do not ignore any changes in your breasts, and please do regular checks, and if there is anything abnormal please see a doctor immediately.

You can also have preventative surgery if your risk is very high like Angelina Jolie.  Angelina shares how she had temporary fillers after having her breast tissue removed, and then nine weeks later, she had the final surgery for reconstruction of the breasts with implants.  Having a mastectomy doesn’t have to hold you back, just two-and-a-half months after undergoing a double mastectomy, Angelina Jolie was back to wearing sexy low-plunging shirts during a film scouting trip to Hawaii, and she still looks absolutely incredible. 

Here at Undercover Glamour we provide a number of temporary fillers while women wait for their reconstruction surgery.  We have a variety of breast forms available, please see our breast prostheses here, www.undercover-glamour.com/breast-forms

You may intend to wear breast forms as a long term solution rather than having reconstruction surgery and this could be due to a variety of reasons i.e. not wanting more surgery, not being fit for surgery, age related or for another reason, whatever the reason our breast prostheses are ideal.  We have several options to choose from, including the traditional silicone breast form which is a natural weight, feel and look or out lightweight breast form which is around half the weight making it more comfortable for the wearer, and a number of other options.  The breast forms can be worn in a mastectomy bra which is designed with pockets to hold the prostheses in place so you are able to have the same shape and look as before so no-one would ever notice that you are a breast cancer survivor.

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