A double mastectomy is an operation where surgeons remove as much breast tissue as possible.
Women and men can have the procedure - either to treat breast cancer, or as in Angelina Jolie's case, to reduce the risk of the cancer forming in the first place.
Genetic testing revealed Jolie carried a faulty gene BRCA1. Carriers have a 65 % chance of developing breast cancer.
Having either or both breasts removed reduces that risk to just 5%. But it doesn't remove the risk entirely - and as such up until recently choosing to have the surgery was controversial. But the surgery has become more routine, and thousands of mastectomies are carried out in the UK each year.
Huge advances have been made in breast reconstruction, which most patients opt for.
- Around 1 in 20 breast cancers is partly caused by an inherited gene fault and the BRCA1 gene is just one of these.
- Women with a faulty gene have a 50 to 80% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime.
- Genetic tests are available to women with a high risk of having changes in these genes.
- Source: Cancer Research UK
To get a genetic test, you need to ask your GP for a referral to a specialist breast clinic.
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