Angelina Jolie


It was Angelina Jolie's medical choice to undergo a double mastectomy given her family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

And, as she promised, the actress has now given her doctor the green light to share some background regarding her medical treatment to help women be aware of their options should they carry the BRCA gene mutation.

In a blog post on the Pink Lotus Breast Center website, Dr. Kristi Funk outlined the five stages of Angelina's surgical journey and how she made the right medical decisions for herself.

Stage 1: Patients carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have up to an 87 percent lifetime chance of developing breast or a 54 percent chance of ovarian cancer. In Jolie's case, given her mother and grandmother both passed away from ovarian cancer (her mother had breast cancer as well), she underwent genetic testing to determine if she had the faulty gene.

Stage 2: According to Funk, this stage involves regular monitoring of the breasts every three months, which includes Mammograms, a clinical breast exam, a Breast MRI, along with self breast examinations.

Stage 3: Having been diagnosed with a BRCA mutation, the Oscar winner had to decide whether to commit to having the mastectomy. That included discussing with her doctor her family situation and whether she planned to have kids (in Angie's case, the latter was moot since she's already got six).

Stage 4: This stage saw Jolie make some crucial decisions, like whether or not to preserve her nipples and, if so, whether to perform a painful "nipple delay" procedure. They also had to determine where the incision would be placed, and what kind of reconstruction will be done (implants versus flaps, for example). In Jolie's case, Funk said her body was "best suited" to implants with allograft, which are "synthetic sheets of material that create a more natural look." The thesp also went with tissue expanders, which required an additional operation but which maximizes blood flow to the breast skin and, per the physician, "allow us to optimize the final implant size, location and appearance."

Stage 5: Jolie underwent the first procedure, the nipple delay, on Feb. 2, and aside from some slightly bruised skin, she returned to her regular activities. On Feb. 16, Jolie had the double mastectomy, which went smoothly and saw the first stage of breast reconstruction performed with the placement of tissue expanders with allograft.

Funk notes that "recovery reflects expectation" and that Jolie was not only "in good spirits with bountiful energy" but was already hard at work going over storyboards for her next directing project, just four days after the operation. After being given injections of saline into her expanders, the final reconstruction surgery occurred on April 27.

To read Funk's full blog post, click here.

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