Your Medical Choice: Angelina Jolie and Prophylactic Double-Mastectomy

Since the publication of Angelina Jolie’s New York Times Op-Ed regarding her prophylactic double-mastectomy, there has been much discussion, praise and debate surrounding Ms. Jolie’s choice and the procedure itself. Personally, I believe that publicizing her procedure was an extremely brave and commendable action on her part. The decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy, however, is deeply complex and extremely personal. It should never be made without extensive research, consideration of your family history and genetic risks, and discussions with doctors from all the relevant medical specialties, family and friends.

As with any complex and potentially controversial topic, there has been coverage of varying quality, usefulness and objectivity. I couldn’t possibly discuss all of the coverage, but the Mayo Clinic provides a clear and credible, if basic, introduction to the topic. I found this additional discussion of Ms. Jolie’s particular case with two prominent oncologists to be as thorough as lay coverage of complex medical issues can be. Many of the major news organization published elementary overviews of the BRCA1 gene as well.

Given the nature of this procedure, the cosmetic outcome will likely weigh heavily on the mind of most patients. Thus, in addition to consultations with medical and surgical oncologists, patients contemplating such surgery should also seek consultation with a plastic surgeon. In a future post, I will discuss more thoroughly the various reconstructive procedures and aesthetic concerns and available procedures.