One of the defining moments in the history of breast cancer occurred in 1974 when the first lady, Betty Ford, spoke openly about her mastectomy, lifting a veil of secrecy from the disease and ushering in a new era of breast cancer awareness. Now four decades later, another leading lady - the actress Angelina Jolie - has focused public attention on breast cancer again, but this time with an even bolder message: A woman at genetic risk should feel empowered to remove both breasts as a way to prevent the disease. Ms. Jolie revealed on Tuesday that because she carries a cancer-causing mutation, she has had a double mastectomy.
But some doctors also expressed worry that her disclosure could be misinterpreted by other women, fueling the trend toward mastectomies that are not medically necessary for many early-stage breast cancers. In recent years, doctors have reported a virtual epidemic of preventive mastectomies among women who have cancer in one breast and decide to remove the healthy one as well, even though they do not have genetic mutations that increase their risk and their odds of a second breast cancer are very low. (NY Times)
"It's important to make it clear that a BRCA mutation is a special, high-risk situation," said Dr. Monica Morrow, chief of the breast service at Sloan-Kettering. For women at very high risk, preventive mastectomy makes sense, but few women fall into that category, she said.
Other physicians were less than comfortable with the marketing aspect of Jolie's care. Pink Lotus -- a "comprehensive and integrative breast center" in Beverly Hills where Jolie had the procedure -- is currently running a large ad on its homepage that promises full details of Jolie's treatment and urges visitors to follow the center on Facebook and Twitter to get the story as soon as it posts. (MedPage Today)
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