Skip to main content

What would Angelina do? British man has prostate removed in preventative surgery

US actress and director Angelina Jolie addressing the audience after premiere of her movie "In the Land of Blood and Honey" in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 2012.

Amel Emric/AP

If you had a genetic mutation that greatly increased your odds of cancer, what would you do? Opt for regular screenings that could help catch the disease early in its development, or immediately undergo surgery to remove the at-risk body part?

It's a question more people are thinking about after news came out last week that superstar actress Angelina Jolie had undergone a preventative double mastectomy in February because she carried a mutated gene that increased her risk of getting breast cancer.

Now, news is emerging that a British man has recently become the first in the world to have his prostate removed for similar reasons.

Story continues below advertisement

According to the Daily Telegraph, the man has a mutation of the BRCA2 gene, which is known to increase the risk of prostate cancer. The Independent reported that doctors decided to operate after a tissue sample showed a small amount of cancerous cells. That, coupled with the man's genetic mutation, convinced doctors that removal was the best course of action.

That's not to say it would be the right decision for every man. Prostate cancer is slow-growing and there is mounting debate over when screening and treatment are truly necessary, particularly since prostate removal can have serious health consequences, including sexual dysfunction and incontinence.

But people with BRCA mutations face a much greater risk of cancer than the general population. Although the mutations are rare, people who have them must decide whether to undergo surgery or to simply do frequent cancer screening.

Jolie made worldwide headlines with her recent New York Times piece, which recounted her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Many medical experts have praised her decision to come forward and raise awareness of the existence of the BRCA gene mutation.

The cost of BRCA mutation screening is covered in many parts of Canada, but patients might not know they should be tested. Those at risk include women with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer and those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

At the same time, there is growing recognition that BRCA mutations can increase the risk of prostate cancer in men, as well as testicular and pancreatic cancer.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter