Angelina Jolie Opens Up About Double Mastectomy
When Angelina Jolie wrote an Op-Ed column for The New York Post earlier this week, the news she shared was a shock to many people. Jolie revealed she recently underwent a double mastectomy. In 2007, her mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56 after fighting the disease for nearly a decade. Jolie admitted she has struggled with explaining why her mother is not here to be a grandmother and has been asked by her own children whether or not she would also die from cancer several times.
Doing everything possible to be here for her children as long as she can, Jolie underwent testing for the BRCA gene mutation and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. According to her doctors, her risk of breast cancer was 87 percent, a number that influenced her to choose to undergo a double mastectomy – a procedure that worked to reduce her breast cancer chances to just 5 percent.
Jolie’s ovarian cancer risk is 50 percent, but she says that at this time she is not undergoing any preventative surgery. For ovarian cancer risks that are high, a total hysterectomy is an option for preventive surgery; recently Kara Dioguardi underwent a total hysterectomy after testing positive for the BRCA2 mutation.
Cancer is a word that strikes fear in almost anyone’s heart and something that has touched most of the population’s lives. Whether you have battled cancer on your own, had a child suffer from cancer, or watched a family member fight the disease, there is no doubt – cancer is life changing. As the world of medical technology advances, more tools are available which give options in the fight against cancer.
One of those tools is the blood test for the BRCA gene. There are two BRCA genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2; and the blood test looks for a deleterious mutation of these genes in both women and men. The BRCA genes are known as tumor suppressors and a deleterious mutation might indicate a much higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. While the BRCA test is expensive — about $3,000 — some insurance companies may cover the test and there are some research facilities that will cover the cost of the test as well. The testing process can take a few months, including meeting with a genetic counselor, having the blood drawn, and waiting on the results. For women or men who test positive for the gene, preventative surgery may be the best option.
One of the things that I found very refreshing in Jolie’s Op-Ed piece was how she now feels about the loss of her breasts. Jolie underwent a procedure that saved her nipples and had reconstructive surgery to replace her breasts with implants. For many women, breasts play a large part of our self-esteem and body image. I know that choosing to remove them from my body would involve a lot of trust in my doctors and a complete change in my body image.
However, if I tested positive for either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation — something I am considering being tested for due to my own family history — I do not think that not having the preventative surgery would be an option for me. I know what it is like to not have a grandparent around to share all of the important moments of life with. My grandmother missed my graduations, my wedding, and the birth of all of my children because she died of breast cancer when I was 12.There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her and how much she would have enjoyed experiencing these moments in my life. I do not want my children or my children’s children to experience the same loss. If there is anything I could do to limit the potential loss for my own children, I would. I want to last as long as possible on this earth, and with the advances in medicine, maybe that will be possible.
Has the recent news encouraged you to get tested? Do you have a family history of cancer?
Image via PR Photos