Did Angelina Jolie go too far getting a double mastectomy? Dubai doc says no.

Published May 16th, 2013 - 07:26 GMT
Angelina Jolie makes another daring move.
Angelina Jolie makes another daring move.

High-profile support has poured in for Angelina Jolie since the actress revealed earlier this week that she has had a double mastectomy.

With everyone from Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux to pop stars Kylie Minogue and Sheryl Crow heaping praise on the ‘Tomb Raider’ star, Jolie insists she is determined to use her platform in the spotlight to educate women “who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer”.

While it’s certainly a brave decision to have made - not only to have her breasts removed but to go public with her feelings on it - there is concern in some quarters that the move was a little drastic.

But Dubai-based breast cancer specialist Doctor Richard Reyes believes it was far from over the top, merely the most sensible choice.

After discovering she has a defective gene - BRCA1 - doctors told Jolie the risk of developing breast cancer had increased to 87 per cent, and her risk of ovarian cancer, the disease that killed her mother at the age of 56, was up to 50 per cent. Explaining how it’s wise to have the breast removed, not only if you have breast cancer but if you have a gene that makes you more likely to get it in the future, Dr Reyes says the only alternative to a mastectomy is regular testing. But that is not without its issues.

He explains: “Testing is an alternative but it wouldn’t be done every few months, it would probably be once a year. There is some evidence that MRI in young, high-risk women is of benefit but the problem is, once you pick it up [cancer], you have already got it.

“What people don’t appreciate about breast cancer, or any cancer, is that the process of the cancer starting to spread happens very early. So, if you have a cancer that’s starting to advance, it’s already oozing into the circulation and blood stream. By the time you’ve picked it up it’s generally a centimetre in size so you can never guarantee that it can be cured. That’s the problem with testing, it’s a very inferior option to having risk-reducing surgery.”

Explaining how techniques in reconstructive surgery have advanced dramatically in recent years, Dr Reyes says there are many different options available to women who do choose to opt for a mastectomy. Still, choosing to lose your breasts isn’t an easy decision. And specialist breast surgeon Doctor Houriya Kazim says women aren’t always willing to go under the knife.

She says: “People say to me: ‘You’d just do it, wouldn’t you?’ but not everybody would. It’s big surgery, you’re removing breasts that are otherwise well and, of course, any surgery has potential complications. If these complications happen because you’re having a mastectomy because you have cancer, it’s accepted. But if you have breast reconstruction for prophylactics that goes wrong, people are not so accepting.”

Dr Kazim explains that her job is to give women the facts and try to counsel them, adding that if women undergo tests for a defective gene, they need to be prepared to take action. She says: “Only do the test it if you’re going to go through with surgery.

“I know that sounds simple but I have several patients at the moment who are in a terrible state psychologically because they’ve gone ahead and done the test because they want to know but now they know, they haven’t thought it through, so all they’ve done is given themselves a huge amount of anxiety but they’re not doing anything to alleviate it.”


From a hot-pants wearing Tomb Raider to a bored housewife turned sultry assassin in ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’, Angelina Jolie has long been regarded as a sex-symbol. Questions have been raised about whether the public’s perception of her will change now but those in the industry are quick to defend her, saying she’ll never lose her appeal.

Dave Karger, chief correspondent for movie-ticket seller Fandango.com said: “I don’t think that’s going to make much of a difference, and I think a lot of people are going to have more respect. This humanises her in a way. “She’s not that perfect specimen sticking her leg out at the Oscars anymore. She’s a real human being with real health issues like any other human being.” A real human being, and no less of a woman, to hear Jolie tell it. “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity,” Jolie wrote.

Is this just another of the stunning actress' daring, crazy moves, or it was it truly the best option for her health? Please share with us your opinion.

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