As news spread about Angelina Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy, I found myself shocked about her decision. I mean, she cut off her breasts as a preventative measure, meaning that she hasn’t even been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, she has a family history of cancer (her mother died from it at age 56) and carries the “faulty BRCA1 gene,” which increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In the New York Times, Jolie revealed that with the gene she had around an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Having the double mastectomy now reduces her chance of breast cancer to just around five percent.
“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…I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
I’ve given Angelina’s decision a great deal of thought. We have a history of breast cancer (and other cancers) in my family. Although my initial reaction was shock at the drastic measure, I do think it is a brave one. The double mastectomy is a major procedure and comes with its own risks of possible complications. Would I risk the possibility of the complications of a major procedure in exchange for the possibility that I might get cancer?
My answer? I just don’t know, but I do respect Angelina’s decision.
Image: Stefan Servos [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons