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The Jolie Effect

For those of you who don't know, I work very closely with cancer patients - many are going through treatment for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. When I heard the Angelina Jolie news, I was wowed at first by her decision as one of the most beautiful women in the world. This could encourage women to realize that without breasts, they can still be beautiful. I hear from many women that breast cancer surgery is "mutilation" and reconstruction "painful" with "less than optimum results." Then I got to - are there any guarantees she won't get cancer anyway? And then realized that her mother died of ovarian cancer, which is even deadlier, because it is so hard to detect. Will she opt to take out those as well? I polled a number of women who are survivors, (no evidence of disease) and those who are still in treatment. 
 
Here are their thoughts: 
 
"It's a personal decision based on your situation. There's no right answer. Angelina chose her kids over her body image. And you're right about her still getting cancer, it might happen." "I think she should have skipped the surgery. She's in a position to have great medical care and as frequent pre-screening as much as she likes. Also access to the latest medical technology. So much of this is based on early detection." 
 
"I think Angelina Jolie's issue is based more in fear and anxiety than the actual illness. I feel that there are many other ways to prevent cancer instead of a double mastectomy. Getting rid of the breasts are not the perfect solution because the cancer can strike anywhere. (Even though the breast cancer cell is different type from other kinds of cancer.)" 
 
"My first reaction was, 'Oh! I would do the same thing'. After that, a lot of ideas came to my head, for example: 'It doesn't surprise me that Angelina made that decision, but I also think this is going to have a different type of impact on women; for example, they will now probably place more attention on breast cancer; but the other side of this preventive approach could become the perfect excuse for aesthetic surgery in teenagers, and women in general. The first reaction from the ladies in our cancer support group was 'I would do the same thing,' because they have been through the experience already." 
 
In my next blog, I will be sharing reactions from oncology nurses and doctors to Jolie's decision.

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Guest Monday, December 10, 2018