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Breast cancer: Why Angelina Jolie had double mastectomy

Last updated on: May 14, 2013 18:31 IST

Breast cancer: Why Angelina Jolie had double mastectomy



Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Read on to know more about the actor's surgery and find out how you can prevent breast cancer too...

Breast cancer according to is "an uncontrolled growth of breast cells."

This form of cancer can be either benign or malignant depending on how is spreads. While the former is not dangerous, the latter can be fatal.

In breast cancer, the inner lining of the lobules, the milk-producing glands, or the ducts that carry the milk are affected causing a tumour -- an unexpected growth or mass of tissue.

In a later stage, the fibrous tissues of the breast get affected and if unnoticed or failed to be diagnosed, the tumour continues to spread leading to a fatal condition.

While a majority of breast cancers are caused due to abnormalities in one's genes, several studies point out to differential factors like age, unhealthy lifestyle, hormonal imbalance, consumption of alcohol among others which we explore later in this feature.

Actor Angelina Jolie recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy in order to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Sharing her experience with her fans, Jolie in her New York Times' column wrote "Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. Today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."

Read on to know more about Jolie's preventive surgery and how it helps prevent cancer.

Top 15 myths about breast cancer

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Image: Angelina Jolie underwent preventive mastectomy to prevent the risk of breast cancer
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters


What is preventive double mastectomy?

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Mastectomy according to the Wikipedia is the "medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely."

Through a surgical procedure the tissues causing cancer are removed from the patient's body.

Usually, mastectomy is performed when a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer.

However, over the years, thanks to constant awareness regarding the diagnosis and prevention of cancer, more women are stepping forward to perform preventive mastectomy.

After the surgery, the risk of contracting cancer is significantly reduced.

In the case of Angelina Jolie, according to her, the surgery wasn't easy, but has reduced her risk of cancer to 5 per cent.

In her column in The New York Times, titled 'My Medical Choice', Jolie wrote: "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 tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent."

Image: By performing the surgery, the actor has reduced her cancer risk from the initial 87 to 5 per cent now

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Prevention is better than cure

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According to the American Cancer Society, unless identified and treated in the initial stages, surviving breast cancer is a challenge especially after the tumour grows to a significant size (over 5 cms).

Currently, the best way to fight it is through early diagnosis and proper medical invention.

Although a poor lifestyle has little to contribute towards developing breast cancer, one could well follow these tips for a healthy life:

  • Undergo a clinical breast examination by a doctor or health professional is recommended to identify whether you are prone to breast cancer
  • Conduct a mammogram, an x-ray procedure to spot any abnormalities
  • Do not ignore any abnormality in your body and consult a doctor immediately
  • Contain your intake of alcohol, drugs and restrict smoking
  • Maintain an organic diet, include green leafy vegetables and essential herbs like turmeric, ginger, basil and mint in your food

Above all this, one must have the right attitude and face the challenge with courage.

As Jolie rightly concluded in her column, "life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of." 

ALSO READ: Superfoods that help prevent cancer

Top 12 foods that help FIGHT cancer

Image: A healthy organic diet can help you prevent cancer
Photographs: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS/Wikimedia Commons

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