Statistics show that about one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer. For people with harmful gene mutations, that number is more than four times higher. On Wednesday, The Bachelor's Lesley Murphy shared a post-double mastectomy photo and it sends a powerful message about protecting yourself against that risk.
Murphy announced her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy on Instagram in March, after discovering she's at an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, according to US Magazine. The 29-year-old Bachelor alum underwent the surgery last week at a hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, the outlet reported. Now in recovery, Murphy plans to have reconstructive surgery sometime in the future.
In her Instagram photo, Murphy is sitting on a black wicker patio chair. Her long blonde hair flows over her bare chest, mostly covering her scars. A maroon bag containing a surgical drain — a plastic device used to stop fluid from collecting at the operation site — rests across the top of her thighs. Tubes jut out from the cover.
The former political consultant, whose mother survived breast cancer, began the caption to her Wednesday Instagram post with,
Last month, Murphy revealed that she tested positive for the harmful mutation to the BRCA2 gene — one of two that protect against tumors — leading to her decision to have the double-mastectomy. According to the National Cancer Institute, the hereditary gene mutation raises a person's risk for breast or ovarian cancer exponentially. In fact, a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics showed that, while about 12 percent of women will have breast cancer in their lifetime, that risk more than triples for people with the BRCA2 mutation. Around 45 percent of women who inherit the gene change will develop breast cancer by 70 years old, researchers found.
Murphy is not the only celebrity to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for a gene mutation. Actor and humanitarian Angelina Jolie propelled the issue into the spotlight in 2013 after publishing an essay in The New York Times about her decision to have the surgery. At the time, Jolie discovered that she inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation, which increases a person's risk for breast and ovarian cancer five-fold.
Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that 47 to 66 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer. Jolie wrote in her editorial that she had a 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, according to her doctors. Her mother died of breast cancer at 56 years old, after fighting the disease for nearly a decade.
A preventive double mastectomy is a somewhat controversial procedure. Doctors have conflicting opinions over how young is too young to have the surgery. Many health care professionals even believe it's not particularly necessary. No matter the side you stand on, though, Murphy's post reminds us that important to remember that the decision to have a preventive double mastectomy is an incredibly personal — and difficult — choice to make. And that's something everyone should honor.