I have a friend who proactively had a double mastectomy, even though she showed no signs of cancer, as a radical — but effective — preventative measure. That’s why I’m so touched that actress Angelina Jolie is coming out and explaining her very personal medical decision in the New York Times. Her touching personal story begins:
MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.
We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer kills almost half a million people every year. What would you do to prevent it?
Read Jolie’s story here, and let’s pray for her, her family, and — above all — for an end to this terrible disease.