Wednesday, May 15, 2013

brava angelina

Angelina Jolie recently announced her decision to undergo a double mastectomy earlier this year as an anti-breast cancer preventive measure. After having lost her mother, Marcheline Bertrande, at age 56, to ovarian cancer in 2007, Jolie discovered that she possessed a mutated gene, one of the early markers for breast and ovarian cancer, as she lays out in honest, engaging, and touching detail in her recent New York Times op ed piece, "My Medical Choice." Some may consider such a step radical, but Jolie is undeniably making a brave, and very personal choice about her health.

The initial screening for the mutated gene, depending on your insurance, can be costly, not to mention the subsequent, if opted for, surgeries. One of Jolie's intentions, besides living her life in a frank and open manner, is to try to advocate for making such tests more widely available and affordable. It makes dollars and sense. In the big picture such testing and even the surgeries would end up being cheaper than cancer treatment. Not to mention the easing of minds that could be achieved.

Angelina Jolie
Jolie with her mother, Marcheline Bertrand
Clan Jolie-Pitt
My own gynecologist, a breast cancer survivor, is a strong advocate for such measures. When a slight shadow on one of my routine mammograms profiled me for six-month instead of yearly mammos, she suggested a new test, for genetic markers, to see if she could lower my probability profile. It cost far less than the $3000 mentioned in Jolie's op ed, which may be the "price" of the test, pre adjustments and insurance, etc. My doc was able to order it in such a way that made it very low cost to me. It wasn't a blood test, but a saliva swab. The doc says this is the future of medicine, checking genetic predictors and creating custom treatments. Bottom line, I didn't have a high probability marker genetically (whew), so will be able to go back to yearly or, as the protocols change, maybe even bi-yearly mammos in future. Again — long-term less testing, less spending. And less worry.

What many are focusing on with Jolie's revelation is her status as an international beauty and what the surgeries might mean for her career. But Jolie has been far much more than a sex symbol for many years now, with her charity work (Special Envoy and former Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Academy Award-winning actress (Girl, Interrupted), and director (In the Land of Blood and Honey). But what comes across most clearly to me most about Jolie, always, is her devotion to her family. She would risk anything to be with them, and to not put them through what she went through, losing her mother to cancer. Brava, Angelina, for what must have been a very difficult decision, but for you and your family was the right one. And courage for any future health-related decisions you might choose or need to make. Good health to you and your family.
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