Angelina Jolie’s ‘Jewish Gene’ Breast Cancer Surgery Saves Lives, Doctor Says
Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo double mastectomy is saving lives as more women seek to be tested for the ‘Jewish gene’ mutation that caused her breast cancer, her plastic surgeon says.
The Hollywood superstar’s cosmetic surgeon, speaking out for the first time since the Oscar winner revealed her procedure five months ago, told the Daily News that many women who never knew about the silent killer are now being tested.
“I’m seeing in my practice already women who are saying, ‘I was inspired by that to get gene testing,’” said Beverly HIlls surgeon Dr. Jay Orringer, who performed Jolie’s reconstruction, told the paper. “I think it’s going to have a tremendously lasting impact.”
The stunning Jolie, Hollywood’s highest paid actress and a United Nations humanitarian, announced in May that she had endured three months of procedures to have both breasts removed because of her high genetic risk of breast cancer.
Jolie carries the BRCA gene mutation that leads to dramatically higher rates of breast cancer. Although she is not Jewish, the deadly mutation is especially common among Ashkenazi Jewish women.
Jolie tested positive for a harmful mutation in one of the BRCA genes, making her about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not carry this mutation, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 60 to 80 percent.
Jolie’s risk was amplified by the fact that her mother died from breast cancer at age 56, raising the stakes that she could have a cancer at a younger age.
Jolie said she underwent the surgery to spare her children from the agony she witnessed as her mother struggled with breast cancer for a decade.
That is the case for many women who seek out genetic counseling, said Dr. Susan Klugman, director of reproductive genetics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, who has done BRCA testing on thousands of women. Klugman said counselors help women work through what it would mean to learn they are positive for the gene.