Here’s My Problem With Angelina Jolie’s Scare Tactics

Her “breast cancer” revelation doesn’t make her a saint.

Saint Angelina is getting on my nerves. I’ve used this space before to vent my feelings about the emaciated, leg-jutting, holier-than-thou Angelina Jolie, and the latest developments haven’t changed my opinion. “How can you not appreciate her brave decision?” friends ask. “How can you not admire her selfless revelation to the world that she has undergone prophylactic surgery?”

Angelina Jolie had genetic testing that indicated a high likelihood that she would develop cancer. The BRCA 1 gene mutation that she carries increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer to 80 percent and ovarian cancer to 55 percent. It also increases the likelihood of developing fallopian tube and prostate cancers at smaller percentages.

Scary stuff, right? An 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer would send most women to the surgeon, right? Not so fast. What exactly does preventive gene testing offer to the informed patient? For the most part, state and federal laws do not require insurance companies to pay for predictive testing. And while some companies may pay for it, especially if there’s a high instance of breast cancer in family members in their 40s or younger, some companies may not. In addition, while BRCA 1 and 2 are sometimes covered, other cancer-related gene mutations that present in much smaller populations are routinely not covered.

So let’s say you want to undergo genetic testing and either your insurance company doesn’t cover it or you don’t qualify. Out-of-pocket cost for such testing can run around $3,000. What will the testing tell you? It will tell you if you have an inherited gene mutation that affects your chances of getting several types of cancer. If you have a positive result for an inherited mutation, it means that mutation exists in all of your cells. So while it makes sense, say, to have a double mastectomy prophylactically, the procedure will not affect the cells that may still cause the three additional cancers with which BRCA 1 is associated. To decrease that elevated risk, you would have to remove your tubes, ovaries and prostate. A positive result also indicates that you may develop cancer, not that you will. A negative result, by the way, doesn’t mean you’ll never develop cancer—you just don’t have as high a likelihood as someone whose tests show the presence of BRCA 1.

I don’t come to this discussion without some honest experience. My mother stayed with me for several weeks last month as she recovered from double mastectomy surgery. Cancer was present in one breast. Despite the small likelihood that it would develop in the other, Mom made the decision to have them both removed. And, at her age, the additional time on the table was a deciding factor in not having reconstruction, so she is forever changed physically. Emotionally it takes it’s own measure of recovery, and she’s doing well.

I know what double mastectomy surgery and recovery entails. What I don’t know is what Angelina Jolie thinks she’s done to further women’s health issues or breast cancer research or mastectomy surgery recovery. All she has done, in my opinion, is elevate the concerns of women about a gene mutation that exists in less than five percent to 10 percent of the population and sent them scrambling for expensive gene testing that may or may not tell them a thing. Perhaps Saint Angelina can’t see that she may have done more harm than good.

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  • megatron

    I am sorry to be sardonic about Jolie’s 1%er pity fest propagandists’ long journey into night. The biggest paparazzi scoop of the century would be photographs of Jolie sans boobs. And there are none. She has been in the Public Eye consistently and never has looked better with a fantastic breast reconstruction to the envy of Dolly Parton, Carol Doda and Pamela Anderson. With a 26% chance of never having breast cancer at all, Jolie forged ahead to cut off any threats at the pass with amazing results. The problem is, there is no evidence she will not get lymphatic cancer at 74% even though she has chopped off nearly all her humanity on the crude results of a primitive genetic science which clipped her for thousands in uninsured elective procedures no plebian woman could ever afford. Yet Angelina has grasped at and may acquire a Messiah-like personality due to her self-mutilation which she has a deep history of.

  • Scott

    It’s nobody’s business what she feels is necessary for her own health. It’s the media that makes it such. I’m surprised you aren’t being critical on what day she did it, how she traveled, what she wore or anything else that is none of your concern.

  • ellen beck

    I heard about Angelina Jolie’s decision on a radical mastectomy and the news it made over the BRACA Gene I thought this was a positive point and would bring progress in the importance of genes. Wanting to be of an open mind about Ms. Jolie and her motives I kept in touch with the news and the story. I pondered her having a mastectomy because she would no longer have breasts. Then I saw Ms. Jolie was on TV and all these women were praising he for having been so “brave” and had a mastectomy. I was a shocked! Here she was with a large set of breasts. My thought on the whole situation that she once again caused a situation which to me, was pointless and self-serving. I asked myself as a woman with implants “Why didn’t she just have the surgery and leave the cancer part out of and have some integrity? Did she not take the time and contemplate all of the other women who may be facing a positive diagnosis of breast cancer and cannot afford or afraid of having breast augmentation after a radical mastectomy? It would be nice to see a person in the “business” with a some HONEST Humanity>