Cancer: Article first published online 28th September 2015
In 2013, Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy and publication of her personal treatment choice for BRCA1 positivity generated considerable media attention. To the authors’ knowledge, the current study is the first prospective survey conducted among the general public to measure a quantifiable media-related effect on public awareness.
The authors analyzed the changes in the general public’s awareness of reconstructive options in breast cancer among 2 female population-matched cohorts aged 18 to 65 years (1000 participants in each cohort) before (March 2013; poll 1) and after (June 2013; poll 2) the announcement of Ms. Jolie’s mastectomy in May 2013.
There was an observed increase in public awareness: significantly more women from poll 2 were aware of reconstructive breast surgery being possible after breast cancer-related mastectomy, notably with regard to autologous tissue and single-stage reconstructions. Approximately 20% of the women in poll 2 (205 women) indicated that media coverage regarding Ms. Jolie affected their interest in breast cancer. A question that was exclusive to poll 2 revealed a preference for autologous (66.2%) versus implant-based (8.2%) reconstructions, with the remainder indicating no preference (25.6%). None of the stratification variables were found to be associated with the above findings.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first prospective study to demonstrate a statistically significant impact of a celebrity announcement on public awareness regarding breast cancer treatment. The results underscore the importance of a media-related impact for professionals in the health care sector, which can serve as a tipping point for raising awareness and improving knowledge concerning a specific disease among the general public.