Film Star Olivia Munn Opts for Double Mastectomy to Treat Breast Cancer: What Are Your Options?

Olivia Munn Chooses Double Mastectomy for Cancer Treatment

What Are Your Options?

Melissa Finley
Melissa Finley Editorial Content Manager
Last updated:

Perhaps you remember her face from her early days on “Attack of the Show,” or a smidge later as she moved on to host special reports on “The Daily Show.” Others will recall her role in HBO’s hit “The Newsroom,” or her work as Psylocke in “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Wherever it is you’ve seen her face, Oliva Munn, 43, is in today’s headlines for a completely different reason.

Munn revealed on Wednesday that she has known for nearly a year about her breast cancer diagnosis. She underwent four surgeries, including a double mastectomy.

MedShadow doesn’t always make a habit of tracking celebs. This isn’t “TMZ”. But, when a common medical condition devastates a favorite Hollywood star, for better or worse, it often sparks questions and concerns in the minds of readers. Are you at risk for breast cancer? Is a double mastectomy your only option?

Am I At-Risk for Breast Cancer?

Studies from 2020 noted that one in every eight American women, or 13%, will experience invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. And it’s not just women. One in 833 men also get breast cancer. For more on the risks of breast cancer, read this 2020 MedShadow article.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

  1. Being born a woman. Exposure to natural estrogen. Menstrual periods starting before age 12 and menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, which raises their risk of breast cancer.
  2. Getting older. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. Family history. Women with first-degree relatives — a sister, mother or daughter — who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or multiple relatives on her mother’s or father’s side who have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer, have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  3. Genetic mutations. About 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child — most commonly the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  4. Personal history of breast cancer. Women diagnosed with breast cancer or some other breast disease are more likely to develop a new cancer in the other breast or a different part of the same breast.
  5. Having dense breasts increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
  6. History of radiation therapy. Having radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, for example) before age 30 increases the risk of breast cancer development later in life.
  7. Having been exposed to DES. Some pregnant women were prescribed the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) to prevent miscarriage between 1938 and 1971. These women as well as daughters born to women who took DES have a higher risk.

Top Risk Factors That You Can Change:

  1. Being obese or overweight after menopause.
  2. Being physically inactive. Women who exercise have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who are inactive.
  3. Taking hormone replacement therapy containing both estrogen and progesterone for more than five years after menopause. Certain birth control pills may also raise breast cancer risk.
  4. Never having a full-term pregnancy, having a first pregnancy after age 30, or never breastfeeding can increase breast cancer risk.
  5. Drinking alcohol. The level of breast cancer risk rises with the amount of alcohol consumed.
  6. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer.

Understand Your Options

As outlined in our 2020 article here, there are a number of choices you’ll face when diagnosed with breast cancer. Your healthcare provider may suggest one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery
    • Lumpectomy: removes tumor and surrounding tissue
    • Mastectomy
      • Simple: the breast, nipple, areola, and skin covering the breast are removed
      • Modified radical: removes all tissue typically removed in a simple mastectomy as well as axillary lymph nodes (those in the underarm area).
    • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: axillary node dissection to remove and examine lymph nodes to determine how far cancer has spread
  • Chemotherapy
    • Combined drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. These drugs may be used on their own as a primary treatment, or in conjunction with other options such as surgery.
      • Adjuvant therapy: additional therapy after a surgery to kill undetected cells, reduce the risk of recurrence
      • Neoadjuvant therapy: done prior to surgery improving the chances of a full, surgical removal
  • Radiation Therapy
    • Use of high-energy rays, such as X-rays, to destroy or damage cancer cells
      • External beam radiation: most common often used after a lumpectomy in the area of the lump or full breast
      • Brachytherapy (internal beam radiation): placed after a tumor is removed, a device inside the breast to emit radiation often in the form of seeds or pellets
  • Adjuvant Hormone Therapy
    • Use of hormone blockers and aromatase inhibitors to help destroy cancer cells by cutting off a supply of hormones that stimulate their growth
  • Targeted Therapies
    • Therapies aimed to attack cancer cells without harming normal cells with immunotherapies
  • Watchful Waiting
    • Active surveillance, monitoring the growth and change of the cancer cells continually

Drug Interactions and Side Effects

Each of the aforementioned choices come with their own side effects. To learn more about the risks and benefits these options include, read more on MedShadow with:

Breast Cancer Overview

Starting Cancer Treatment? Reading the Side Effects on the Label Isn’t Enough

Long-Term Side Effects of Chemo

Many Cancer Patients Use Complementary Therapies, But Their Doctors Don’t Know

Before beginning any course of treatment, tell your doctor about any prescription or non-prescription drugs you are taking — as well as any vitamins and herbal or dietary supplements. Drugs and supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of breast cancer treatment and/or make side effects worse.

Studies show that up to 41% of cancer patients experience potentially harmful interactions between drugs they currently take and cancer therapies. Cancer patients at greater risk of problems from drug interactions include those with many chronic illnesses who take multiple drugs, such as antihypertensives, warfarin and anticonvulsants.

DISCLAIMER: MedShadow provides information and resources related to medications, their effects, and potential side effects. However, it is important to note that we are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content on our site is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Individuals dealing with medical conditions or symptoms should seek guidance from a licensed healthcare professional, such as a physician or pharmacist, who can provide personalized medical advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

While we strive to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented on MedShadow, we cannot guarantee its completeness or suitability for any particular individual's medical needs. Therefore, we strongly encourage users to consult with qualified healthcare professionals regarding any health-related concerns or decisions. By accessing and using MedShadow, you acknowledge and agree that the information provided on the site is not a substitute for professional medical advice and that you should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for any medical concerns.

Recommend More Articles Like This?

Editorial Content Manager
Show Comments (1)
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
PTS Terbaik Indonesia

Can you explain the differences between lumpectomy and mastectomy as surgical treatments for breast cancer?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x