Having bravely undergone a double mastectomy surgery, A-list actress and Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie has chosen to reveal the details of her experience in order to empower other women with the same frightening risk of breast cancer.
In February this year, actress and director Angelina Jolie took a bold step in her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy with an arduous three-month-long procedure. A mastectomy is a surgical operation to remove part or the whole of a breast.
The 37-year-old celebrity revealed just two days ago that she made this pre-emptive move due to her high risk of breast cancer; Jolie’s mother had breast and ovarian cancer and died at just 56 years old while her grandmother had ovarian cancer too.
87 percent risk of breast cancer
Jolie, a mother of six children, carries a mutated BRCA 1 gene. While a normal BRCA 1 gene is responsible for repairing cells, a defective or mutated one significantly increases a woman’s chances of contracting breast and ovarian cancer.
Proactively taking a step to curb this threat, Jolie started with a “nipple delay” procedure in early February to ensure that there was no cancer cell behind the nipple. Following that, she had a major surgery where the breast tissues were removed and temporary fillers take its place before implants are put in the reconstructive process nine weeks later.
In the three months that Jolie endured the pain and inconvenience of surgery, she kept her operations under wraps from the media and continued with her usual work. Following her preventive double mastectomy, the star is also reportedly going to have a procedure to remove her ovaries due to the frightening 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer the defective gene is threatening her with.
“They don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer”
Mother to three adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam as well as to three biological children including a pair of twins, Jolie made this choice so that she could reassure her young family of her health. Together with her famed partner Brad Pitt, the former Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations asserts that she “will do anything to be with them as long as she can”.
Thanking Pitt for his support and love especially during the past few months, Jolie stresses the importance of treasuring familial ties and emphasises how this journey has brought the Jolie-Pitt troop closer than ever.
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Empowering other women
In her personal write-up for the New York Times on Tuesday, the Oscar winner also commented that she did not feel any less of a woman, even after the procedure. She also encouraged other women who may be at risk of breast cancer to take a step to explore their options and stated that her journey “in no way diminishes her femininity”.
To every woman with a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family, Jolie earnestly reminds them of the need to seek relevant information in order to make sound decisions that will help them in this aspect of their lives. The actress reinforced her desire to spread awareness of this cause of breast cancer so that they will not have to live under the “shadow of cancer”.
Did she have an alternative?
While Jolie’s choice was courageous and perhaps the best for her personally, it is important for women with a family history of cancer to also know that a preventive double mastectomy is not the only proactive choice they can make to protect themselves. As problems like obesity are far more linked to breast cancer than genetic mutations, it is also key that women actively review their exercise and diet routines regularly.
Additionally, with scientists proving that gene behaviour can be affected by individual lifestyle choices, the negative effects of inherited mutations may sometimes be mitigated by healthy living and a balanced lifestyle.
Is Jolie’s choice the right one for you?
In hopes of erasing the social stigma against mastectomy, Jolie in her courageous revelation aims to inform women of their options should they be placed in such a spot. What women should know too, however, is that Jolie’s choice is but one of the many options they have in taking a decisive step against breast cancer.
Because not many women may be able to afford or cope with the pain and lifestyle changes of a preventive mastectomy like Jolie’s, it is therefore vital that we make a conscious effort assessing in our individual everyday decisions from regular screening to lifestyle and diet choices. This way, we too are making a personal proactive step in taking responsibility of our health, just like Angelina Jolie did.
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