The exact course of treatment one takes to tackle breast cancer is unique to every woman. However, there are certain standard measures that most women undergo as part of treatment. These include radiation and chemotherapy, as well as lumpectomy surgery. A lumpectomy is a surgery to remove the cancerous and/or abnormal tissue from the breast. The amount of tissue removed in a lumpectomy varies based on the size of the tumor and severity of the cancer, so a lumpectomy may look different for every woman. Radiation is often paired with lumpectomy to ensure that any remaining cancer cells in the breast tissue are eliminated.
For more severe or advanced stage breast cancer, women may opt to have a mastectomy. Unlike a lumpectomy in which only cancerous tumors or tissue is removed, in a mastectomy procedure the entire breast is removed. Even within the realm of mastectomies, there are different variations of the surgery. These range from removal of just the breast, to also including muscle tissue or lymph nodes. The extent of the mastectomy will vary based on the needs and desires of the patient. Celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Hoda Kotb had mastectomies as part of their cancer treatment. Others, such as Christina Applegate, did so as a preventive measure. Though Applegate was only diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, she elected to have a double mastectomy because of her family history with breast cancer and because she tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation, indicating a high risk for the cancer to return.
Women may also choose to undergo mastectomy surgery as a fully preventive measure. Angelina Jolie famously revealed her decision to undergo the surgery in 2013, due to the BRCA-1 gene mutation. According to Jolie, she was at an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, and a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer. With those odds in her mind, Jolie made the choice to undergo the procedure without any cancer diagnosis. While some women may prefer not to undergo any surgery until they personally feel that it is medically necessary, Jolie’s decision is another example of women making the choice to take control of their health, and shows women that they shouldn’t be afraid to do so.