By now almost everyone's read Angelina Jolie's op-ed in The New York Times revealing her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of opinions floating around the Internet about her decisions to have the surgery and to make it public. Here are some of the most talked-about concerns buzzing around.
1. Jolie is also having her ovaries removed. Because Jolie has the BRCA1 gene mutation, she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, she wrote. Many doctors recommend that women undergo an oophorectomy by age 40 or when they're done having children.
2. Jolie may test her kids for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Most women who are diagnosed with cancer actually have no family history, but because Jolie's mom battled breast and ovarian cancer for almost a decade and she herself has the BRCA1 gene mutation, she now faces the difficult choice of deciding whether to test her children for the mutation. As a carrier, Jolie has a 50 percent chance of passing the gene on to her children. According to a TIme article, most doctors don't recommend genetic testing for diseases that don't affect young children, such as breast cancer. “In a typical situation, most people would counsel her to wait until her biological children are mature adolescents or young adults before discussing this with them,” Robert Green, M.D., M.P.H., a medical geneticist at Harvard Medical School told Time. “But given that she’s a public figure, it’s going to be harder to shield them.”
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3. Maybe Jolie shouldn't have made her decision so public. Some people have voiced concern that Jolie's call to women to take charge of their health and seek out medical resources if they're worried about cancer will actually lead to an influx of needless surgeries, worries, and appointments for women who are not at a high risk for developing cancer. Instead of being helpful, they argue, her decision to go so public could be seen as medically irresponsible. "I feel that it's really, really important that women recognize that Angelina Jolie is in this very particular group of women that has this genetic mutation," writer and cancer survivor Peggy Orenstein told NPR. "She's not a woman of average risk, and to take her experience and generalize it either to ordinary women of average risk or even women with a family history, that concerns me."
4. However, she has encouraged women to start talking. Jolie is not the first celebrity to undergo a preventative mastectomy (for example, Christina Applegate admitted she underwent the surgery after somebody leaked her medical records to the press in 2008), but she is the first to openly discuss why she did it, and her op-ed has already inspired other women to talk more publicly about their struggles with cancer. In fact, CNN's Zoraida Sambolin announced yesterday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer a month ago and recently decided to undergo a double mastectomy after the cancer was found in both breasts. "I have two beautiful kids," she said. "I want to live to see them. You would cut off any appendage to see them grow up."
5. Ultimately it's Jolie's decision. As is the case almost every time a celebrity makes a choice regarding, well, anything, people talk. That's not surprising, and it's not necessarily wrong. People willingly do give some up some expectations to privacy when they become public figures and Jolie is certainly aware of that. However, as Carrie Murphy at Blisstree explains it, Jolie made the decision she felt was right for her health, her body, and her family. It doesn't mean that her decision is right for everyone, only that it was the best one for her.