Today it was all over the news… Angelina Jolie has undergone a preventative double mastectomy at the age of 37.
This is a great day for women – for several reasons.
First, I’m so happy to see a fellow mother (of six!) taking a proactive stance to her health. Jolie underwent genetic testing and was found to have a faulty gene that gives her an 87% risk of developing breast cancer and a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer. After watching her own mother battle cancer for almost a decade, Jolie has said in interviews she felt compelled to undergo the procedure for her children. “The decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
The second reason I am excited about the publicity around this is because of the honesty and details she provided in her article surrounding the choice, the procedure, the reconstruction and recovery. If you haven’t read it – read it! By talking about this process openly she is taking some of the fear away. To be honest, I thought a mastectomy was a complete butchery of a woman’s chest. Slice the breast off and your done. I had no idea that you could salvage the nipple or any skin… I thought a mastectomy must involve a “fake” nipple or a tattooed one. Little did I know… Jolie had a procedure called a Nipple Delay, which helps to save the nipple from being included in the mastectomy. The breast tissue is removed, an implant is put in its place, and in the end you are left with a small scar. As Jolie describes in her article – “the results can be quite beautiful.”
I don’t know many women who, when faced with the same choice, would choose something different. I only have to glance at the photo of my husband and boys sitting beside my computer screen to think “100%, I would do anything to be here for them as long as humanly possible.” My family is what I live for.
This takes me back to last year when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She chose to undergo the safest procedure with the best possible outcome for her diagnosis – a hysterectomy. I read about the pain Jolie feels every day raising her children without her Mom. I cannot imagine raising my boys without my Mom’s help and guidance. Thank-you Mom. I now understand that decision wasn’t just for you – it was for me too.
What would you do in Angelina Jolie’s situation? As a women’s health and fitness advocate I have to point out that breast cancer isn’t the only disease killing women. The leading cause of death in females today is heart disease, which accounted for 24% of all deaths in women in the United States in 2009. These aren’t just stats – these numbers are many people’s mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts… Prevention for heart disease includes quitting smoking, exercising, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular health screenings. So if you answered “I would have the mastectomy” to my question then I will also ask “what are you doing to prevent a much more prevalent disease – heart disease?”
Thanks (again) for reading. :)