Film star Angelina Jolie Pitt, who previously disclosed her positive test for a mutation of the BRCA1 gene and subsequent decision to undergo preventive double mastectomy to reduce the associated risk of breast cancer, recently announced that she had also elected to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, this time in order to avoid ovarian cancer. Jolie Pitt’s mutated gene—which can increase a woman’s risk for both breast and ovarian cancer by 20 to 60 percent—in addition to a history of cancer deaths among women in her family, led her and her doctors to choose surgery, which she wrote about in the New York Times.
Jolie Pitt says she decided to publicize her preventive surgery so that other women could learn more about their options. As she and others have stated, BRCA1 mutation doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman should opt for preventive surgery. But who should consider such drastic measures to avoid cancer?
“Central Time,” a daily news show on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network, posed that and other related questions to our own Lisa Barroilhet, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Wisconsin’s Carbone Cancer Center. Listen to the interview.
Meanwhile, women in the Madison area are being faced with a similar decision. Diane Kelm, of McFarland, was interviewed about her preventive procedure by two local television stations—Channel 27 WKOW, and Channel 3 WISC. Kelm’s gynecologic oncologist, Stephen Rose, MD, also of UW Ob-Gyn and Carbone Cancer Center, spoke with both stations about the BRCA gene and how it can affect women like Kelm and Jolie Pitt. See video from both WKOW and WISC.
If you have questions about the BRCA gene or related screenings or conditions, you can contact the UW Carbone Cancer Center at (608) 265-1700 or visit the UW Health Gynecologic Cancer Clinic website.
David M. Kushner, MD
Director Gynecologic Oncology, Professor