The latest statistics to be released today show the Angelina Jolie effect saw 1,256 women undergo a mastectomy to prevent breast cancer in 2013-14, up from 597 women the year before. While there has been evidence of increased genetic screening and mammograms prompted by her shock revelation, the first data on and Angelina effect on mastectomy rates has now emerged. The Hollywood actor went public about her surgery in May 2013. She revealed she’d had the surgery after she discovered she carried the BRCA1 gene that left her with an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and 65 per cent chance of ovarian cancer.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data on young women and breast cancer released today (Monday) shows in the 12 years between 2001-02 and 2013-14 the rate of preventive mastectomy increased 600 per cent. The largest increase occurred in 2013—14, the same year Angelina Jolie went public about her surgery, it doubled in that year. Cancer Australia chief Helen Zorbas said the increased rate of mastectomies in that year reflected an increased awareness. “Hopefully these mastectomies were performed on women who were at high risk and after appropriate counselling and information,” he said. It was important for women to realise that just five per cent of breast cancers are attributable to genetic problems, she said.
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“I think there is a role which can be responsibly used by celebrities not only providing information but demonstrating that taboo or disconcerting subjects can be discussed,” she said. Jolie did not need to publicly discuss her choices but the fact she did so and explained the reasons in a responsible way was positive, Ms Zorbas said. The new report on breast cancer in women in their 20s and 30s, will be launched at Cancer Australia’s annual Pink Ribbon Breakfast, in Sydney on Monday. It says in nearly 800 young women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and 65 will die from it. That is an average of 2 diagnoses a day and 1 death a week among young women. However, it shows the rate of breast cancer in young women is not rising and has remained steady over the last 30 years.
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The report shows young women with breast cancer have a lower survival rate from the disease. In 2007—11, women aged 20—39 had an 88% chance of surviving for five years after diagnosis, compared to the 90% survival rate for women aged 40 and over. However, this is an improvement from 1982—1986, when five-year survival for this age group was 72%, AIHW spokesman Justin Harvey said.
Since 1997 better screening and improved treatments have seen the breast cancer mortality rate for young women steadily decrease from 5 deaths per 100,000 in 1997 to 2 deaths per 100,000 in 2015. In 2012, breast cancer was the fourth leading cause of death for women aged 20—39. Research has found that young women tend to have a higher proportion of breast cancers that are very large, that are of a high grade, that are lymph node positive. At the end of 2009, there were 2,795 women aged 20—39 alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous 10 years.