October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

The “Angelina Effect” on Breast Cancer Reconstruction


A study from Austria just published in the journal Cancer shows that women’s awareness of breast reconstruction increased after actress Angelina Jolie announced in May 2013 that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction. Ms. Jolie carries the BRCA1 gene which gives her a 60-80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

The researchers from the Medical University of Graz (Austria) had fortuitously surveyed 1000 women about their knowledge of breast reconstruction one month before Angelina Jolie’s announcement. Realizing the educational potential of the media focus on a celebrity’s breast cancer and reconstruction, they conducted a poll of another 1000 one month later.

In the first prospective study of the media’s influence on the public’s breast cancer knowledge, they found that the percentage of women who knew that reconstruction was an option after mastectomy increased from 88.9 to 92.6. The awareness that reconstruction can be performed at the same time as mastectomy increased an even larger percentage from 40.5  to 59.5.

Breast Reconstruction in the U.S.


In the United States, federal law mandates that breast reconstruction after mastectomy, including surgery on the opposite breast for symmetry, be covered by health plans. We have encountered Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) policies that do not cover preventative mastectomies to reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Reconstruction after partial mastectomy (lumpectomy) was not specifically required by the 1998 law passed by Congress, so some insurers cover that surgery while others do not.

Breast reconstruction surgery is available to Mid-South breast cancer patients through the Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis. If you are interested in learning more about your options with mastectomy surgery, please contact us for a breast reconstruction consultation.