Many of us were shocked last week to learn about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, after being found to have early signs of cancer.
By now, many of you have read or heard about her ‘diary of a surgery’, published in the New York Times.
This latest surgery follows Jolie’s preventive double mastectomy in 2013, prompted by her high genetic risk and a family history of the disease, which tragically claimed the life of her mother.
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed increasing community anxiety about the role of genetics in individual breast cancer risk – a concern in large part caused by the ‘celebrity effect’ of Jolie’s diagnoses.
Misconceptions and confusion can contribute to poor prevention, screening and treatment decisions, making it vitally important that women are informed of the facts.
Around five to 10 per cent of all breast cancer cases, and about 10 to 15 per cent of ovarian cancer cases occur due to an inherited gene change in BRCA1 or BRCA2 – meaning most women are not at genetic risk linked to BRCA1 or 2.
So, what should you do if you’re anxious, confused or concerned?
Talk to your GP. It’s important you stay well-informed and discuss your individual family history and personal risks with a trained professional.
Be breast aware. All Queensland women should check their breasts regularly and participate in recommended screening. It’s critically important that women who notice changes in their breasts see their doctor immediately.
Do what you can to reduce your individual risk of cancer. Up to one third of all cancers are preventable through simple lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking.
If you are one of the women in the minority group who might be at an increased genetic risk, your GP or specialist will be able to refer you in the right direction.
Find out more by downloading our Code Pink Survival Kit and Do it, Live it, Beat it!
For more information, call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 or go to www.cancerqld.org.au.