Jolie’s reveal sparks breast awareness in Dubai

Days after international Hollywood siren Angelina Jolie told the world she had removed her healthy breasts to prevent breast cancer, dozens of UAE-based women have inquired about getting the same procedure.


Kelly Clarke

Published: Tue 21 May 2013, 8:43 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 7:56 AM

Jolie’s big reveal came just one day after Khaleej Times reported on the growing phenomenon of women opting for the procedure — known as a prophylactic mastectomy — when the opinion pages of the New York Times on Tuesday published an editorial on the same topic, which caught the attention of news networks all over the world.

Written in the first person, the editorial first appeared to be an ‘anonymous’ woman recounting her three-month battle whilst undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy.

But as the reader’s eyes moved down the page, it became clear this wasn’t just anyone.

“I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive”.

Many had overlooked the byline: Angelina Jolie.

The news struck a chord with dozens of women in the UAE and as the story broke, enquires into the genetic testing — which is the first stage of the procedure to determine the risk of cancer and whether a prophylactic mastectomy is recommended — flooded Dubai’s Well Women clinic, according to breast consultant Dr Houriya Kazim.

“Just the day after — patients were calling. (I’ve had) many, many requests for information on testing, (even those) I would not consider high risk.”

And Dr Kazim said even women she considered high risk who had refused to go for genetic testing in the past are now considering undergoing the test in the wake of Jolie’s reveal.

But Jolie, alongside other A-listers Sharon Osborne, Christina Applegate, Giuliana Rancic, had an advantage, Kazim said.

“Many of my patients who would like to test for the breast cancer mutation, cannot afford even the test, about Dh20,000, let alone the surgery and reconstruction,” which can cost up to Dh200,000.

She says she only heard about the news after finding her inbox full with journalists pressing for comment.

“The day the news broke it was the media calling me, that’s how it came to my attention.”

She says her first reaction was how brave she was, firstly to do the surgery and then to come out in public about it.

But the decision for Jolie, given her wealth and public fame, meant the procedure was more attainable.

“Health insurance is an issue for many as most (companies) will not cover genetic testing and many will refuse cover if they know you are at risk,” Dr Kazim says, adding that this perhaps would not affect someone like Jolie.

But she says prophylactic mastectomy is still a decision not to be taken lightly for the vast majority of women considering the surgery.

“I would only recommend doing the test if you are willing to go down the road that Jolie took, should you test positive.

“If you are not willing to do prophylactic surgery, then don’t do the test.”

She says careful consideration should be taken when deciding whether to test for a mutation, as unexpected results, without properly thinking through the consequences, can cause a lot of anxiety.

“A woman will also need to think about the recovery period from the surgery and possible complications,” she says.

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