Angelina and breast cancer copycat surge: Doctor warns patients are requesting double mastectomies even if they don't need one


  • Tests for high-risk cancer gene have risen by 67% since Jolie's operation
  • Actress carries the BRCA1 mutation giving her 80% chance of breast cancer
  • She had preventative surgery and went public with the news in May this year
  • Double mastectomies in the UK have quadrupled since then
  • Experts warn there is a danger of 'over treatment' as many 'don't need it'

Women inspired by Angelina Jolie are demanding breast removal surgery – even if they don’t need it - a leading doctor has warned.

After Miss Jolie, 38, who is in a high-risk cancer category, announced this year she had had a double mastectomy, a surge of women in the UK have sought to follow suit.

A quarter of women who develop cancer in one breast are now asking for both to be removed, according to figures from the London Breast Institute.

But Professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute has said surgery would be pointless for women who are not in the same category as Jolie.

Dr Mokbel said: ‘It’s obviously a great step forward that Angelina Jolie has increased awareness of breast cancer.

‘But we’re seeing a large number of women requesting a preventative mastectomy for peace of mind, women who’ve been diagnosed but don’t have a genetic predisposition so wouldn’t benefit.

‘These are patients who say, “Can you do for me what Angelina Jolie had done?” They’re on the increase.

‘Doctors and patients need to avoid overestimating the benefits.’

As a carrier of the mutation in the BRCA1 gene Miss Jolie’s risk of developing breast cancer was increased by more than 80 per cent, and ovarian cancer by 50 per cent.

Studies show that the occurrence of breast cancer may be reduced by 90 per cent or more after preventive mastectomy in women with a high risk of this disease.

Miss Jolie received praise after announcing her decision to have both breasts removed following the deaths of her aunt from breast cancer and her mother from ovarian cancer.

London Breast Institute figures showed genetic testing for BRCA mutations at their clinic had risen by 67 per cent since Jolie went public, and preventative mastectomies have risen fourfold.

Professor Mokbel said the ‘fear factor’ had led some patients to ask for preventative surgery and that there was a danger of over-treatment.

Fewer than one per cent of women carry the faulty BRCA1 gene - like Miss Jolie - or BRCA2 gene, which is very similar.

Professor Mokbel warned patients can suffer psychological harm after having radical surgery.

He urged women to have counselling and proper screening before they consider preventative breast removal. The cost of a test for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations is £1,500. Not all NHS hospitals offer it because of the expense.

The procedure involves the removal of both breasts and provides the greatest protection for women at high risk of developing cancer in breast tissue.

Breast reconstruction can be done at the time of the preventive mastectomy. When this happens it is called an immediate reconstruction.

Women with a family history of breast cancer are advised to undergo genetic screening which is done via a blood test.

They can also take drugs to lessen the risk including Tamoxifen which works by suppressing oestrogen, a hormone that triggers tumour growth, or by undergoing very regular checks.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 45-year-old singer Anastacia revealed she had also chosen to have a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time.

Source: Daily Mail:

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