Angelina Jolie, upon learning she had a rare genetic marker that indicates especially high risk for breast and ovarian cancer (the latter of which took her mother’s life at age 56), decided to have a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer from 89% to less than 5%. Then she decided to let the world know, and the criticism began. While it’s okay for people to debate things like who should or shouldn’t get this type of surgery, the criticism I’m talking about went something like this:
She’s just looking for attention. Really? For someone wanting attention, she goes to a lot of trouble to elude the press. By simply not expending that effort, she could have enough attention to potentially overwhelm the most attention-needy among us.
The concern trolls. These people are deeply worried that the doctor scared her into this unnecessary surgery, and now she’ll scare other women into it. The implication being that women are irrational creatures, easily manipulated, and once manipulated they like to convince everyone else to join them. Somehow… I dunno, I mean, a lot of people of both genders can be “scared” into trying a fad diet, for example, but getting a body part removed? Even the most dedicated trend followers are going to think twice about that one.
She’s ugly anyway, so it’s fine with me that she did this. Translation: “I am entitled to her body as public property, but since I didn’t want it anyway, it’s okay that she changed her appearance. Had I cared about her appearance, my entitlement might well have driven me to follow her around and harass her about how she could dare do this thing TO ME! Because that’s who it’s all about, ME ME ME!”
Just eat more broccoli and teh cancer can’t get you: “Living a healthy lifestyle is a far better way to reduce risk then maming yourself with no guarantees.” I don’t believe this idea is born of ignorance or confusion. I think it comes from the same place as, “If you dress conservatively, you can’t be raped.” It’s denial, plain and simple, born of a deep psychological inability to cope with the random unfairness of life.
This is one of my favorites, a comment from the NYT piece:
“I do not think there is a direct link between gene fault and cancer, rather an indirect one. We have genes that can go awry from exposure to man-made toxins, and then cancer develops.”
Hmm, that almost sounds plausible. Maybe this person is in medical research?
So a better strategy would be to go the alternative way (it is rather ridicolus that the natural way is now called the alternative way) and avoid those toxins: eat organic food, breath fresh air without exhaust and other pollutants, drink clean water, live in a wooden healthy home without exposure to chemicals from furniture (impregnated with fire-retardants), get your sleep etc etc.
Wait, this isn’t sounding so medical anymore. If it was that simple, George Burns wouldn’t have lived to be over 100, and two guys I knew who were super fit health nuts would not have keeled over dead from massive heart attacks in their 40s or 50s due to genetic factors. Sometimes the genes just win, and you don’t even need to work in medicine to notice that.
… However, if there is such a thing as a direct link between gene and cancer, I still think one should live health, the way nature intended, without such surgery.
Aha – so even if you’re wrong and the gene means exactly what Jolie’s qualified physicians said it means, she still should just eat more broccoli and hope for the best rather than do something that is proven to reduce the risk to under 5%. Unlike your “healthy lifestyle.”
Those natural breasts are also part of you bodys defense system.
Huh? I can only assume s/he means the lymph nodes which are often removed in breast cancer procedures because they’re so often where the cancer is.
It makes me wonder that no other comments that I have read share my point of view.
It should make you wonder. Specifically, whether you’re making the slightest bit of sense, or are in fact totally uninformed, married to unfounded assumptions, and not at all concerned about how many people might suffer if they read your comment and mistakenly think you know a breast from a lymph node.
I am a computer programmer
Oh, FFS, then shut up! I’m a blogger, and you don’t see me saying I know what’s best in medicine! Get over yourself!
Once again, we see that a woman cannot dictate her own body choices without the concern trolls and beauty police and general narcissists crawling out of the woodwork to get themselves some attention.
Newsflash: women are not stupid. We can read and stuff. And even the more daft among us can’t simply go to doctors and order a double mastectomy through the drive-in window. No; doctors actually, like, go over various options with us and stuff. By sharing her story, Jolie has informed the general public:
- There’s this whole other way certain breast cancer risks can be detected, and if your family tree indicates it, this testing might be appropriate for you. Also, if you know someone in this situation and they are talking about this option, this is not a “crazy” idea you should be trying to talk her out of. It’s a viable option based on real medical data, and it deserves a doctor’s opinion on whether her case merits it, not yours.
- That any mastectomy, whether preventative or after the fact, does not reduce your womanhood, and can now be done in such a way as to barely change your appearance (“small scars”). And that even if it does change your appearance, survival is far more important.
- That it’s okay to put your health and health anxieties ahead of anyone’s perception about your body and their entitlement to it.
- How romantic partners (and, for that matter, friends and relatives) should respond – with support and reassurance that they are more concerned about keeping you alive than about any change in your appearance.
- How expensive the testing is. She doesn’t directly mention that insurance doesn’t always cover it (nor that quite a lot of Americans have jobs that don’t provide insurance, and independently purchased insurance can be more expensive than your housing payment). But based on what she’s shared, maybe more women with cancer in their families will inquire about this and complain if their insurance refuses to pay for it. Do insurance companies prefer paying for chemo, radiation and/or mastectomies later? That’s not cool.
I personally see no reason to doubt Jolie’s motives, but then I don’t get my kicks by sitting around passing judgment on people. I think she’s simply provided something for people to think about. Unlike her critics, she’s provided real medical data and sources to explain her decision – and when you do that, something really neat happens: you enable people to look at your case and think, “Cool, but this clearly doesn’t apply to me” as well as “Oh, I think I need this!”
In sharing this, Jolie is just empowering people with information about a rare condition. The only reason it’s so controversial is that it has to do with her secondary sex organs. People need to get over this; it’s embarrassing.