In a recent op-ed piece, acclaimed actress and director Angelina Jolie revealed her personal experience with preventative breast cancer methods. She carries a “faulty gene” that highly increases her chances of developing ovarian and breast cancer. When she discovered that she had an 87% risk of breast cancer, Jolie decided to take action. Her choice was to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. After three months of procedures and surgery, Jolie’s process was complete on April 27th. She miraculously kept this under wraps from the media until now, and she’s chosen to write about her choices publicly for a few reasons.
"But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."
"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
I admire Jolie's thoughtfully composed letter to women struggling with such devastatingly scary medical situations like her own. However, it's important to mention that this procedure isn't right for every woman. Dr. Richard Francis, the head of research at the respected British agency Breakthrough Breast Cancer, told the Guardian, "For women like Angelina it's important that they are made fully aware of all the options that are available, including risk-reducing surgery and extra breast screening. Though Angelina decided that a preventative mastectomy was the right choice for her, this may not be the case for another woman in a similar situation. We urge anyone who is worried about their risk of breast cancer to talk it through with their doctor."
In addition, many women cannot afford to receive testing as she did, as insurance usually does not cover the costs. We hope women reading Jolie's article realize that mastectomies are not the best solution for everyone.
Read Jolie's full piece at the New York Times.
Sources: the New York Times, Salon
Photo via IMDB