Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy: A Tough Decision

Angelina Jolie, one of Hollywood's most prominent actresses, made headlines in 2013 when she announced her decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy. As a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, Jolie faced a high risk of developing breast cancer, and she decided to take a proactive approach to reduce her risk. In this article, we will delve deeper into Jolie's decision, the procedure she underwent, and the impact it had on her life.

**Importance of Knowing About Prophylactic Mastectomy**

Prophylactic mastectomy is an important option for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. By removing breast tissue before cancer has a chance to develop, women can significantly reduce their risk of developing this life-threatening disease. It's critical that women understand this option and make informed decisions about their health.

**Angelina Jolie's Story: A Closer Look**

Angelina Jolie has a long history of breast cancer in her family. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt all battled the disease, and Jolie herself tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. With a risk of up to 87% of developing breast cancer, Jolie was faced with a difficult decision. After conferring with her doctors, Jolie decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy to reduce her risk.

**The Pros and Cons of Prophylactic Mastectomy**

Prophylactic mastectomy has both pros and cons. On the one hand, it can greatly reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, it's a major surgery that comes with permanent body changes and emotional turmoil. It's important for women to carefully weigh the benefits and risks before deciding to undergo this procedure.

**The Pre- and Post-Mastectomy Journey**

The journey of a woman undergoing prophylactic mastectomy can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Before the surgery, women must undergo pre-surgery preparation, including consultations with doctors and genetic counselors. After the surgery, there is a period of recovery and rehabilitation. Angelina Jolie has been open about the emotional impact of her mastectomy and the importance of support during this challenging time.

**A Message to Women Considering Prophylactic Mastectomy**

For women considering prophylactic mastectomy, education and awareness are essential. It's important to understand the risks and benefits of the procedure and to work with a healthcare team that provides expert guidance. Emotional support is also crucial during this time, and women should not hesitate to seek out counseling or support groups.


Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy sparked an important conversation about breast cancer prevention and the choices women face. For many women, this procedure can be a life-saving option. By educating ourselves and seeking support, we can make empowered decisions about our health.

**Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)**

1. Can prophylactic mastectomy completely eliminate the risk of developing breast cancer?
2. How long does the recovery process take after a prophylactic mastectomy?
3. What impact can prophylactic mastectomy have on a woman's body image and self-esteem?
4. Is prophylactic mastectomy covered by insurance?
5. Are there alternative options to prophylactic mastectomy for women at high risk of developing breast cancer?

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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