by JASMINE ELSHAMY Photo & Video Editor
Actress Angelina Jolie announced on May 14 in a New York Times op-ed that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy to avoid the very great chances that she was to get breast cancer. A mastectomy is an operation that removes all or part of the breast.
After learning that she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Jolie wanted to take all possible chances to avoid the very high chance that she was to eventually get breast cancer.
Jolie’s mother, actress and producer Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56. Jolie is 37 years old.
In the Times op-ed, titled “My Medical Choice,” Jolie said she finished three months of medical procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in California on April 27 that included the mastectomies and reconstruction.
“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,” Jolie wrote. “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.”
She wrote that the experience involved a three-step process. First, Jolie had a procedure that increases the chance that the nipple can be saved. Two weeks later, she had major surgery where the breast tissue was removed and temporary fillers were put in place. Nine weeks later, she described undergoing “reconstruction of the breasts with an implant.”
“Angelina Jolie is being very responsible about this situation. I happened to read a few excerpts from her op-ed in the Times, and I think she is sending a great message about taking care of your body and putting its health as a priority,” says sophomore Michayla Weitman.
Jolie did want to write this to send a message to women everywhere, a message that making the decision to do the mastectomy was not easy, but it is one she is very happy she made. In telling her story, Jolie acknowledged that surgery might not be the right choice for every woman.
Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test can determine if a woman is “highly susceptible” to the cancers.
My own aunt had breast cancer back in 2006, and it was a very difficult process. Finding out she even had a health issue with such a gravity as this one came as a shock to the whole family; we honestly had no clue what was going to happen.
Thankfully, the technology for the mastectomy was available at that time, and she was able to undergo the surgery after finishing the torturous chemotherapy. It is not easy, and it is a very, very long process. The surgery usually lasts about eight hours, and that is how long my aunt’s lasted.
Fortunately, it was a successful surgery and my aunt has been in remission since 2008. There are many other women out there who can attest to having similar success stories to this one, but as Jolie mentions in her op-ed, the surgery is not always the best option for a woman.
“Being able to know if you have the hereditary gene to get cancer is one of the greatest things to happen to the medical field,” says junior Stephanie Pasedwalt. “I would love to confidently tell my children that they won’t have to ever fear losing me to the tragic sickness that is cancer.”