AS the world rallied behind courageous Oscar- winning actress Angelina Jolie, who yesterday revealed that she had had a preventive double mastectomy, the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) warned this invasive procedure should only be considered for patients with extensive medical support.
Jolie decided to have the mastectomy after learning she carried a gene that increased her chances of developing breast cancer.
The 37-year-old mother of six – whose mother died of ovarian cancer at 56 – wrote about her drastic decision in the New York Times yesterday, saying she had undergone surgical procedures to remove both breasts between February and last month.
But Cansa chief executive officer Sue Janse van Rensburg said while this was a very brave choice, preventative mastectomy was also a controversial issue.
“It’s accepted that it will reduce your risk for breast and even ovarian cancer. However, it must be understood although it may reduce your risk of getting cancer with up to 90%, you still have a 10% chance of developing breast cancer as surgeons can’t remove all the breast tissue,” she said.
“As a rule, we don’t promote this life-changing procedure without ensuring the patient has access to a comprehensive health team in respect of counselling and support after surgery.
“Should a woman decide to have a preventative mastectomy due to a strong family history or because she is a carrier of the BRCA gene [the same faulty gene Jolie carries], we highly recommend genetic counselling and in-depth consultation with oncologists, reconstructive surgeons and medical practitioners first due to the physiological and physical complications that can follow.
“Everyone is different and should make an informed decision within their own realities.”
She said Cansa promoted regular screening and an awareness of any body changes.
Meanwhile, CNN anchor Zoraida Sambolin announced yesterday she was undergoing a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sambolin, who anchors CNN’s Early Start morning show, talked about her condition on the show while discussing Jolie’s decision. Jolie won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted.– Additional reporting by Sapa-AFP