Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Reveal: What It Means For Breast Cancer Reconstruction

           Angelina Jolie’s disclosure that she underwent surgery for a preventive double mastectomy after learning she is predisposed to breast cancer set off a firestorm of discussion, as it often does, when celebrities become spokespeople for certain types of diseases or health care decisions. I’m curious, however, whether it will lead to an onslaught of women choosing to have mastectomies who may not face the same type of risks that she, a carrier of the breast cancer gene, had. If more young women choose to get rid of their breasts, they’ll be left with a flat surface where two large, fleshy organs once were. I have first-hand knowledge of this, since, 11 years ago, I was one of the growing number of young women diagnosed with DCIS, an early stage breast cancer, which Peggy Orenstein described so eloquently in a recent New York Times Magazine piece. I, like many with DCIS, chose to have a mastectomy. There’s no way to sugar coat the remains of an amputated breast. There’s a giant scar over a flat surface. For me, the choice to have breast reconstruction, and not have to face the ugly reminder of my mastectomy, was a no brainer. There’s been little discussion, by either Jolie or others in the public eye, of what’s involved, should a person decide to undergo breast reconstruction. Jolie made passing mention to implants she had at the time of her mastectomy, but revealed little about that particular procedure and what it entails. Though I’m sure advancements have been made over the past 10 years, reconstructive surgery is no picnic. I long to write a piece that will tell the many women likely to undergo breast reconstruction just what’s involved, so they can make just an informed decision about that, as they hopefully did about getting their mastectomy.