Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Angelina Jolie: “My Medical Choice”

UNHCR Ambassador Angelina Jolie and William Hague arrive at the G8 Summit held at Lancaster House to address the reduction of sexual violence in conflict zones.<br /><br />Featuring: Angelina Jolie<br />Where: London, United Kingdom<br />When: 11 Apr 2013<br />Credit: WENN.com

Yesterday, an Op Ed piece, written by Angelina Jolie, appeared in the NY Times. In it, Jolie explains her decision to have a double mastectomy upon learning that she carried the BRCA1 gene, which greatly increases her chance of developing breast and ovarian cancers. By choosing this radical procedure, Jolie reduces her chance of developing breast cancer by 82 per cent. She wrote, “I am writing about it now so that because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience.”

Earlier this year, as Jolie began, and completed this process, she had the support of her children and her partner, Brad Pitt. Fortunately for Jolie, she had the time and the resources to deal with this very complex and very scary problem. We all need to remember that while breast cancer now has a much higher recovery rate than it used to, there are virulent strains of cancer that take women every day.

Most of us have been impacted by breast cancer or cancer in general, in some way. One of my closest friends is a 30+ year breast cancer survivor and I thank God every time I hear about a woman losing her life to this evil beast that my friend was able to beat the odds and grace my life with her presence.  She and I also lost another friend to colon cancer seven years ago, a cancer that can be successfully treated with early detection. I will never forget Evonne and I miss her every day.


breast cancer graphweb Picture via

In Jolie’s case, she was able to be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Apparently about 10 per cent of breast cancers are caused by this gene but the chances of developing cancer in its presence are staggeringly high (87%). Once contracted, the survival rate is very low. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, genetic testing for these mutations can be done via blood test and should be considered under certain circumstances (see the list here).

I found Jolie’s account really inspiring because as a woman, actress and beauty icon, her decision to remove her breasts could have had long lasting personal and psychological impact. It’s heartening to read, “On a personal note, I don’t feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered because I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” That’s important because so many women do not realize that they do have choices, whether regarding health, their bodies, their relationships, their careers, their lives.

There are many, many resources available for women to take care of their breast health. If you haven’t been getting regular mammograms, please do. By keeping healthy, you are making sure that you will continue to be there for your family and your friends. Please see your doctor regularly. For those who do not have health insurance or can’t afford a breast screening, Planned Parenthood offers these services. Click here to find a Planned Parenthood location in your area.

You can follow Jolie’s progress on the website of The Pink Lotus Breast Center.