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    No.188: Angelina Jolie Mastectomy: The Story and The Outcome

    Angelina Jolie Mastectomy: The Story and The Outcome

    You may know Angelina Jolie from her roles in Girl Interrupted, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, or Maleficent. What you may not know, though, is that Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy nearly a decade ago after her mother died of cancer. Why did she make such a drastic -- yet important -- life decision? Read on to learn about Jolie’s reasoning behind her preventative double mastectomy, and her advice to anyone who wants to be proactive about their breast health.

    Angelina Jolie

     STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty

    Why Did Angelina Jolie Have a Double Mastectomy? 

    Angelina Jolie’s story behind her double mastectomy is a bit different than other celebrity breast cancer stories you may have heard. Jolie is a previvor, or someone who has a higher chance of developing breast cancer due to a genetic mutation or family history. During a regular screening, Jolie discovered that she carried the genetic mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which predisposes those who carry it to developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer at higher rates. The diagnosis fit her family history: Jolie’s mother, grandmother, and aunt were all affected by breast cancer.

    Once she learned that she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation, she decided to take the preventative measure of having a double mastectomy, which is the removal of tissue from both breasts. By having a preventative double mastectomy, Jolie  reduced her risk of developing breast cancer by 95%

    When Did Angelina Get A Mastectomy?

    Jolie’s first procedure for her double mastectomy began on February 2nd, 2013, where she received a nipple delay, which ensured that potentially cancerous tissue was removed without losing her nipple. Two weeks later, she had her breast tissue removed. After recovering for nine weeks, she had the final procedure of breast reconstruction. 

    Why Is Angelina Jolie's Mastectomy Story So Important?

    Once Jolie decided to undergo a double mastectomy, she brought many discussions about breast cancer, women’s health, and BRCA gene mutations (there are two: BRCA1 and BRCA2) into the spotlight. Hearing the wordcancercan be gut-wrenching. However, by taking a simple blood test to check for the BRCA gene mutation, you can potentially stop cancer before it develops. Jolie’s story shows that you, too, can be brave in the face of uncertainty and you have the agency to make proactive decisions about your health.

    Years before Jolie’s public naming of the BRCA gene mutation, many folks didn’t have the tools or knowledge they needed to know if they were at risk of carrying the mutation. Some groups are more at risk than others -- for example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are  10 times more likely to carry a BRCA gene mutation -- but people of all backgrounds now know that the mutation is a possibility and can dramatically impact their lives. A lot of that awareness is thanks to Jolie,  who famously penned “My Medical Choice” in the New York Times op-ed section to spread awareness in one of the biggest media platforms in the world.

    Angelina Jolie's Advice To Other Women

    When Jolie shared her mastectomy story, she wrote that her decision to undergo the preventative procedure wasn’t an easy choice. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer run in Jolie’s family, with her losing her mother at age 56 to ovarian cancer. Jolie knew that by having the mastectomy, she decreased her chances of developing breast cancer to under 5%.

    The decision to take such drastic action to reduce cancer risk is a deeply personal one between you and your doctor. However, Jolie wants folks to know that they have options if they learn they are a BRCA mutation carrier. A medical professional, geneticist, or previvor support group can help point you in the right direction if you believe you may be at risk of carrying a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

    Bras Angelina Would Love

    After undergoing a mastectomy, it’s common to feel a little pain and swelling during recovery. Proper support and comfort are vitally important while healing, and these three AnaOno garments can fit that bill quite nicely. 

    Susan Bra

    Susan bra

    The  Susan Mastectomy Pocketed Wrap Bra combines comfort and sex appeal -- yes, that’s possible! With soft cups, lace straps, and a traditional closure in the back, the Susan feels and looks like your everyday bra pre-mastectomy. The pockets accommodate breast forms or other types of inserts, so you can wear the Susan long after you’ve healed.

    Gloria Bra

    Gloria pocketed bra

    A double mastectomy is no reason to skip over cute, stylish bras. It’s time to feel empowered and sexy with the  Gloria Pocketed Mastectomy Bralette. The Gloria bralette is made from super-soft modal fabric, guaranteed to provide comfort for everyday wear. This bra features lace detailing, pockets for inserts or forms (although you can wear the Gloria flat), soft cups, and thin adjustable straps.

    Abby Lounge Pants 

    Abby lounge pants

    When in recovery, the name of the game is comfort. But why not have a lounge pant that is both comfortable and cute? The  Abby Wide Leg Lounge Pant looks right at home, well, at home, stretched out in your favorite easy chair or cuddled up on the couch watching movies with the kids. Made from the same soft modal as AnaOno bras, Abby is designed to keep you comfortable all day long. Interior pockets can hold surgical drains if you have them placed after your procedure, too.

    Advocate For Your Health And Well-Being

    Angelina Jolie’s personal decision to have her breast tissue removed preemptively was one that resonated with many concerned with their way-higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer. Her decision may have resonated with you, too, if you know that you carry a BRCA gene mutation. The decision to have a preventative double mastectomy is one to make with the help of a genetic counselor, your medical team, your loved ones, and most importantly, with yourself. 

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.