This week, Hollywood starlet Angelina Jolie announced that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy procedure a couple of months ago, after learning that she was at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
The actress told the New York Times that her decision came after she received test results showing that she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, a type of breast cancer susceptibility gene that predicts the likelihood of developing these types of cancers.
Jolie’s brave and highly personal decision places a strong perspective on common day-to-day disease-prevention methods – such as proper diet and exercise – that many of us find so difficult.
In an explanation as to why she chose this procedure, Jolie writes, “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. 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 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 I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent.”
Angelina Jolie is 37 years old and is no stranger to the toll that cancer can take on a family. Her mother, actress and producer Marcheline Bertrand, died in 2007 of ovarian cancer. She was 56 years old.
According to Jolie, the ultimate factor in her decision was her children. She and her fiance, actor Brad Pitt, have three biological and three adopted children. “I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,” she writes.
Jolie writes, “for any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”
We All Have Choices
Like Jolie, we all have choices to make when it comes to our health. We make many of these choice on a daily basis. From what we eat, to how much sleep we get, to how well we handle stress or the amount of physical activity we get. We can make a choice to be proactive as Jolie did, or take a “wait and see approach.”
This is not to say that everyone has to make such drastic decisions as she did, or make the same decision, just that we all have choices. Albert Camus said, “life is a sum of all the choices that we make.” This has much truth when it comes to many things including our health.
The key to making sound choices lies in being educated, being informed and being tuned in to our health. We must make staying healthy and disease-free a priority. While we cannot control everything in life, we need to acknowledge the things that we can control and take responsibility for the choices that we make.
Jolie made a choice based on information that she trusted. Whether or not we would make the same choice is not as significant as the fact that she was proactive in doing what she felt was best for her health. There is a lesson in this for all of us.
-The Alternative Daily