When actress Angelina Jolie Pitt announced she underwent a preventive double mastectomy and breast reconstructive surgery in 2013, media outlets from all over the world covered the news. Now, a recent study reveals just how much Jolie Pitt’s announcement resonated with women and raised their awareness of breast reconstruction surgery.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we take a look at what these findings mean for breast cancer patients and women in general.

The Angelina Effect, Quantified

In 2013, Jolie Pitt revealed she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery after finding out she had the BRCA1 gene mutation, which greatly increased her risk of developing certain cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. A recent study published in the scientific journal Cancer surveyed 1,000 women before and after Jolie Pitt went public about her surgeries. The study found 4 percent more women were aware that reconstructive breast surgery is possible after one or both breasts are removed. Additionally, 11 percent more women were aware that reconstructive surgery can be done using a woman’s own tissue. The study also found 19 percent more women were aware that reconstruction could be done during the breast-removal operation, an option that Dr. Kessler offers to his breast reconstruction patients.

Researchers believe the findings suggest that media coverage can help improve the public’s knowledge about health topics. In this case, media coverage of Jolie Pitt’s story has led to an increase in breast reconstruction surgery, which can be a key part of the healing process for breast cancer patients. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Jolie Pitt said her decision to undergo her surgeries was not an easy one to make, but she hoped that by sharing her story, more women would become aware of the disease and know that they have options. On breast reconstruction surgery, Jolie Pitt wrote, “there have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years and the results can be beautiful.”

The “Angelina Effect” has also had an effect on breast cancer screenings, which are an integral part in early detection of the disease. A study published in Breast Cancer looked at clinic referrals in the UK for genetic counseling and DNA tests for breast cancer mutations before and after the actress’ public announcement. The researchers found referrals increased two and a half times more compared to referrals in the same time period one year before Jolie Pitt made her announcement.

How You Can Raise Awareness

As we’re reminded about how important breast cancer awareness is, let us not forget what each one of us can do. Doing your part in raising awareness is a simple yet important step in the fight against cancer. This month, take the time to remind one woman to perform a monthly self-breast exam or convince a woman over the age of 40 to undergo a yearly mammogram. Doing this can increase the early detection and treatment rate and help save lives.

Additionally, if you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, gently remind that person that great strides have been made in breast reconstruction methods following lumpectomy or mastectomy for the treatment of breast cancer.

For more information on breast reconstruction surgery, contact us today. Please call our Newport Beach plastic surgery practice at 949.644.6544.

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