Jolie’s Preventive Mastectomy has triggered much panic and confusion regarding
breast cancer. What is breast cancer? What treatment options are the best?
Should you get your breasts removed to prevent breast cancer like Angelina did?
Read on to know more.
Breast cancer’s reign of terror has been
propelled into the spotlight by Angelina Jolie’s poignant disclosure that she
underwent a preventive double mastectomy, a procedure involving the removal of
both breasts, after she tested positive for a mutated version of the BRCA1
gene, a faulty gene that greatly increased her risk of developing breast
Angelina Jolie’s declaration has
triggered a brutal debate on breast cancer treatment. The internet is abuzz
with pompous, egotistical, worried-for-the-women-of-the-world doctors
scrambling over each other to explain how she is misleading other women to take
“unnecessary” preventive actions to “mutilate” themselves. Hospitals and
clinics claim to be inundated with questions from women whether they, too,
should get their breasts chopped off in order to prevent breast
In view of the confusion rampant
regarding this topic, the article explains breast cancer, its risks and
treatment options in a concise manner for its
What is Breast
cancer is the second most common type of
cancer in women. It is a disease in which cells in the breast begin multiplying
abnormally without control to form a
As per the World Cancer Report, breast
cancer accounts for about 1.38 million cases worldwide. 458 000 women die from
breast cancer each year representing 1.6 per cent of all female deaths (IARC
While experts have deduced many probable causes that
cause breast cancer, there is as yet no foolproof explanation as to why one
person develops the disease while another does not.
Causative Factors (as per World Cancer Report, WHO
and other independent studies) may include the
- Exposure to radiation, (in the form of X-Rays and CT Scans),
- Western lifestyle with a high calorie diet;
- Hormone Replacement Therapy,
- Oestrogen exposure, owing to either early menstruation, or delayed menopause;
- Lack of physical activity
the BRCA1, BRCA2, CDH1, STK11,
and TP53 genes escalate the possibility of developing breast
cancer. Conventionally, these genes, called tumour suppressors, restrain
abnormal cell growth and stabilise cells’ DNA. However, if these genes are
mutated, as is the case with 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancer instances, a
woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer increases. Women with a
faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene as well as a family
history of breast cancer
have an even higher risk of developing breast cancer as was the case with
Angelina Jolie who lost her mother to breast cancer at the early age of 56.
At the onset of breast cancer, when the
tumour is benign and treatable, no symptoms are typically produced. Therefore,
it is vital that women follow recommended screening
protocols for detecting breast cancer at an early stage, before symptoms
As the cancer advances, the most characteristic
physical symptom is a painless lump or thickening in or near the breast.
Other signs and
symptoms may comprise the
- Persistent changes in the sign and shape of the breast;
- Spontaneous nipple discharge (sometimes bloody);
- Nipple inversion or retraction i.e. turning inward;
- Skin irritation, dimpling, or scaliness.
However, it is important to note that
these changes can be a result of several other conditions, too. Experiencing
one or more of these symptoms is not a definite indicator of breast cancer. A
doctor should be consulted in case of any persistent anomaly in the breast.
Proper care should be taken to avoid breast
Treatment of Breast
Over the years,
breakthroughs in both detection and the treatment of breast cancer have led to
the breast cancer mortality (death) rate declining. Treatment depends
on the patient’s choice and the extent of the disease.
- Lumpectomy – Removing the breast cancer;
- Mastectomy – Removing the entire breast;
- Sentinel Node Biopsy – Removing one lymph node;
- Axillary Lymph Node Dissection – Removing several lymph nodes;
- Radiation therapy - Using high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells;
- Chemotherapy – Using drugs to destroy cancer cells;
- Hormone therapy - Slowing the growth of hormone receptor-positive tumours by preventing the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow;
- Targeted drugs – Attacking specific abnormalities within cancer cells.
While people like
Mary Kom term Angelina Jolie’s preventive mastectomy nothing but an act of
fear, others claim that this is a cheap trick to boost her public profile, yet
others blame her of misleading women. While the double mastectomy was a
decision that she made, it is necessary to know that only her mutated genes and
family history put her in the smallest of minorities and preventive surgeries
are not required for most women unless they test positive for faulty genes.
Whatever her reasons for going public with her surgery, one cannot doubt that
she has helped empower and provided courage to other sufferers of breast
cancer. Her striking remark, that she did not feel any less of a woman and was
proud of her strong choice, transcends the confines of status, race and
language to bring together despairing women faced with similar choices