Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has been making headlines again after further surgery to prevent cancer. Jolie has revealed she has undergone a salpingo-oophorectomy recently, following a bilateral mastectomy after finding out she was a carrier of the cancer gene. New.com.au reports on the 25th of March, 2015 that surgeons are publically applauding Jolie for her pre-emptive surgery and encouraging women with a known risk to do the same. The BRCA gene mutations put women at a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer:
“I would say any woman who is a carrier of these genes and has delivered the children she wants to deliver during her lifetime, she should definitely be encouraged to discuss the issue.” Carriers of the BRCA1 mutation, which is more dangerous than BRCA2, have a lifetime risk of about 80 per cent of developing breast cancer, compared to about 10 per cent for women without it.”
The overall incidence of breast cancer is much higher than ovarian cancer, and both significantly impact on the quality of life for many women and their families. That thought can be too risky for many, and the surgery may have other benefits:
“Removing the fallopian tubes and ovaries limits not only lowers the odds of developing ovarian cancer but also of breast cancer, he added, by curbing the release of risk-boosting female sex hormones.”
Not only family genetics, but also ethnicity may also play a role in cancer. Women who have a hereditary link with cancer or are from certain ethnicities are at a higher risk of carrying the gene:
“People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are more likely to carry a BRCA mutation, as are certain Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic individuals, according to the US-based National Cancer Institute (NCI).”
It is important to remember that carrying the gene does not automatically mean that developing cancer is certain. Women should discuss their options with their doctor and receive proper genetic counselling before making any decisions.