In a New York Times op-ed column, actress Angelina Jolie shocked many people by revealing that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy after learning she carries the BRCA1 gene which is known to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer. Supported by husband Brad Pitt, Ms. Jolie’s decision to “be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could” was driven in large part by her mother’s long-term cancer battle and early death at the age of 56. In sharing her decision, Ms. Jolie lamented the fact that only one of her six children had the opportunity to know their grandmother before her death.
“My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%,” Ms. Jolie said. “I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
Ms. Jolie is not the first high-profile celebrity to choose preventive double mastectomy. In 2008, actress Christina Applegate had both breasts removed after surviving breast cancer to prevent its return. However, Ms. Jolie represents a growing new movement among high-risk cancer patients to act before cancer strikes.
The desire to take aggressive preventive action before receiving a cancer diagnosis has been fueled by the discovery of genetic defects — BRCA1 and BRCA2 –directly linked to a high risk of breast cancer. Coupled with the high incidence of breast cancer among women, discovery that they carry a genetic marker for breast cancer seems to stoke the natural fear cancer provokes.
Preventive surgery is one way to deal with cancer fear, but it is not the only choice.
The return of her breast cancer after a decade in remission has caused U.S. singer-songwriter Anastacia to cancel her European tour just a month before its scheduled London kickoff. Less well-known here than she is abroad, the 44-year-old pop singer is a chart-topping, multi-platinum star with a huge European and Asian following. First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 when she was 34, the Chicago native has shared her cancer struggle through her song lyrics.After winning her first battle against cancer, Anastacia created the Anastacia Fund to help increase breast cancer awareness among young women. Her recent hit single Best of You is her personal message to those who share her struggle against cancer: “Don’t ever let cancer get the Best of You!”
Anastacia is representative of a disturbing U.S. cancer trend that cuts across racial and socio-economic lines. The results of a breast cancer study prompted by the author’s own breast cancer diagnosis at age 27 discovered that advanced-stage breast cancer among women 25 to 39 has been increasing at the rate of 2% per year since 1976. While breast cancer diagnoses in women under 40 comprise only 7% of all U.S. breast cancer cases, cancer experts are concerned by both the upward trend and the more aggressive nature of breast cancer in younger women.
The prospect of cancer is frightening at any age, but particularly when you are young and just beginning to build your life. Issels Integrative Oncology is internationally known for its remarkable complete long-term tumor remissions of standard therapy-resistant cancers. Visit our website for cancer treatment information.