Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Triggers Concerns in Shanghai

By Fang.Xiao, Epoch Times
May 23, 2013 Updated: December 15, 2013

In order to prevent breast cancer, Hollywood star Angelina Jolie recently opted to undergo a double radical mastectomy—surgery to remove both of her breasts. Her choice has triggered a lot of interest in mastectomies among the women of Shanghai, China.

According to a report on May 20 by Wen Wei Po newspaper in Hong Kong, a Shanghai doctor revealed that he had seen a large increase in the number of inquiries regarding the relevant testing and surgical procedures in just the past few days.

Angelina Jolie’s choice of a radical mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer has become a hot topic among the media and the public in China. When Jolie announced her decision last week in an eloquent New York Times column, she encouraged women around the world to take control of their own destiny, encouraging every woman who has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer to seek medical help, and make an informed decision of her own.

Song Hui, Director of the Breast Center at Shanghai Red House Obstetrics and Gynecological Hospital told Wen Wei Po, that in the past few days there has been a large increase in the number of people consulting him regarding this issue. “A woman told me that she has a relative who has breast cancer; does she need to get a mastectomy? In fact, that relative was only her sister-in-law.”

Song said that some women reported that they had several colleagues who were diagnosed with breast cancer, and that they were afraid of being infected, so they were thinking they should have their breasts removed, too. “With this kind of problem, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Breast cancer is not contagious, and from a genetic point of view, a genetic relationship does not exist between non-blood relatives.”

A reporter from Wen Wei Po found that in just a few days, many private clinics put up “Breast Cancer Genetic Screening” signs with fees ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 Yuan ($163 to $815). Some clinics stated that if patients didn’t trust domestic procedures, they could arrange for them to undergo genetic screening overseas in U.S. hospitals.

Professor Shen Zhenyu, of the Breast Center in the Cancer Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, told a reporter from The Shanghai Morning Post, “Angelina Jolie’s doctor had assessed that she had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. This is because of her family history of breast cancer, and the mutations of the two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 .”

Shen believes that there is no large-scale epidemiological statistical data of BRCA1 and BRCA2 susceptibility genes among Eastern women. The probability of breast gene mutation is also lower among Eastern women, and they appear to have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to European and American women. Therefore, Shen believes that there is no need to conduct breast cancer genetic screening for each woman in Shanghai.

Dr. Yang Hongjian, Director of the Breast Center of Zhejiang Cancer Hospital said that the two key genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can be easily detected in the United States, but in China, the National Health and Family Planning Commission has yet to approve such testing.

A Shanghai Morning Post reporter also discovered that there are no such detection tests for the breast gene BRCA in Shanghai government hospitals at this time.

Translated by John Wang. Written in English by Barbara Gay.

Read the original Chinese article.