Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Angelina's Choice: Another Viewpoint

Disclaimer:  I have always liked Angelina Jolie.  Even when B-man says, 'I don't get all the hype,' I still like her and respect her choices of motherhood and advocacy.  And I respect her decision to have preventive surgery.  

But the hype around this is freaking me out.

Here's why:

1)  In spite of health care reform, medicine is still big business.  Routine tests like mammograms and colonoscopys have been shown in recent years to be excessive and maybe even dangerous.  False positives and high radiation make annual mammograms questionable.  And if your bowel happens to get nicked during a routine colonoscopy (I'm just sayin', it happens), you will deal with that mistake for the rest of your life.  Creating fear first, then prompting action, keeps the patients, and the dollars, rolling in.

2)  Just a little research will reveal that the data around this type of genetic testing is...uncertain. Angelina can remove her breasts, her ovaries and any other body part that is vulnerable to cancer, but there are no guarantees. 

3)  Angelina, do what you need to do, but resist sharing this news with the world and encouraging other women to do the same.   However heroic and courageous Brad Pitt thinks you are, this is a private decision.  Using your celebrity to influence other women to have preventive surgery is the result of misplaced advocacy. 

4)  And why are women primarily being targeted for this possibly unnecessary body mutilation?  I have yet to hear of a test that identifies the gene for testicular cancer.  Or encouragement for preventive surgery. 

Finally, based on the simple law of physics (like attracts like) Angelina may be more - not less - likely to get cancer now than she was before, because her entire focus is on 'KILLING THE CANCER BEFORE IT SHOWS UP AND KILLS ME.'

Something about this just doesn't sit quite right.

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  1. Interesting points. I have no idea if this particular genetic test is as reliable/accurate as the claims, but I do tend to agree that we do too much testing in general, leading to false positives and unnecessary intervention ... all kinds of treatments, from medications to surgeries, have turned out to be basically worthless or worse than worthless and in many cases we keep doing/using them anyway. The state of health care maddens me.

    1. Hi Elisa - from what I see, working within a large health care organization, we're somewhere between making the switch from 'more is better' to 'reduce hospitalizations and promote wellness.' Even if our philosophy has changed - and it must to meet health care reform - the business model of medicine hasn't. It's frustrating and it will take time.

  2. Excellent post with points all women need to consider! I agree that vibrating on cancer feels like "what we think about expands" to me as well. I wish her the best, but I will make my own decisions and wish more celebrities would keep their decisions to themselves.

    1. Hi Mermaid - Yeah, I'm with you. Make your personal decision, but don't assume you're right just because you're famous. And tell Dr. Oz to quit acting like the last word on women's health. Because unless you are one, you ain't.

  3. AMEN! Along the same line as what you said - if someone is pre-disposed to getting cancer, does removing one particular body part(s) really stop the cancer from developing...somewhere else in the body? Knowledge is power but such a radical reaction is a little extreme, to say the very least.

    1. Hi Michele - Your comment made me wonder to what lengths Angelina is willing to go to outrun her non-existent cancer. When does it shift from 'courageous' to delusional? Seems like a valid question to me.



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