the angelina effect: how the actress raised awareness about breast reconstruction surgery

In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie Pitt made international headlines not for one of her movies, but for a more personal and serious matter: she revealed she underwent a preventive double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. The actress chose to undergo preventive mastectomy after finding out she had the BRCA1 gene mutation, which greatly increased her risk of developing breast cancer. After the procedure, Jolie Pitt’s chances of developing breast cancer dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent.

Jolie Pitt’s personal story and the subsequent media coverage of it had a positive impact on raising breast cancer awareness. According to one study, more women became aware of breast cancer screenings, which are important tools in the early detection of breast cancer.

A recent study has found Jolie Pitt’s announcement also raised awareness on breast reconstruction surgery, which is an integral part in the healing process for many breast cancer patients. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Erwin Bulan of Bulan Plastic Surgery discusses the findings in detail.


A study published in the scientific journal Cancer surveyed 1,000 women before and after Jolie Pitt made her public announcement. The study found 4 percent more women were aware that reconstructive breast surgery is possible after one or both breasts are removed; 11 percent more women were aware that reconstructive surgery can be done using a woman’s own tissue. Additionally, 19 percent more women were also aware that reconstruction could be done during the breast-removal operation. Researchers believe the findings show the important role the media and celebrities play when it comes to increasing public awareness on health topics.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Jolie Pitt said she decided to go public with her surgeries in hopes that other women could benefit from her experience.

“For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options,” Jolie Pitt wrote. “I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life.”


Learning that you have breast cancer, or in Angelina Jolie Pitt’s case, high risk of breast cancer, is not easy. Breast reconstruction can help restore self-confidence and alleviate some of the psychological pain women often feel following breast cancer.

Patients have the option to undergo breast reconstruction performed at the same time as their mastectomy or lumpectomy or sometime after the procedure. There are pros and cons to both options. Immediate reconstruction decreases the number of surgeries the patient will have to undergo and increases their chances of beautiful results. On the other hand, delayed reconstruction is a suitable option for patients who anticipate additional cancer procedures or treatments.

Dr. Bulan can reconstruct the shape of one or both breasts by using implants, the patient’s own breast fat and tissue, or all three. This will depend on several factors, including the patient’s medical history and how much breast tissue was removed.

To learn more about the breast reconstruction and treatment options Dr. Bulan offers, please contact us today. Schedule a personal consultation by calling (973) 467-9744.