My Thoughts On Angelina Jolie, Prophylactic Mastectomy and Genetic Predisposition
Angelina Jolie’s heart-rending choice to have a double mastectomy has certainly created a storm of controversy this week among breast cancer circles and my friends and subscribers have asked my opinion on the whole matter, hence today’s post.
First of all, please read her personally written article which appeared in the New York Times Opinion Page. Eloquent. However…
Two Lines Of Thought
There are those who applaud her decision and her courage for making it (because it had to be a tough one to make), while others believe it was incredibly stupid because she didn’t have breast cancer, just a strong family history. I’m hovering somewhere in between those two lines of thought. Mostly I just feel incredibly sad for her, because it’s apparent that Ms Jolie fell prey to fear, to overzealous medical providers who must have played a rather large part in that fear, and to the cancer industry as a whole.
Please allow me to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Surgery Has Risks
In explaining her own choice to have this surgery, Ms Jolie does not mention the many side effects and risks of this type of surgery. Surgery always comes with risks and side effects. To complicate matters, breast implants are considered “high risk” by the FDA (not that I concern myself overmuch with what the FDA thinks). The current statistics indicate that 4 out of 10 women who have had a mastectomy and implants will require additional surgery within 3 years of getting their implants.
More than a few of my subscribers have shared with me that had they known reconstruction surgery (whether flap reconstruction or implant reconstruction) was going to be so painful, so bothersome and such a disruption to their lives they would never have chosen it. I truly feel for them.
Genetic Predisposition Vs Epigenetic Factors
As far as the genetic predisposition part of the story, an excellent article has been written by Sayer Ji, the founder of greenmedinfo.com, a website resource that I trust and often refer to because it always contains well-researched and well-written information on all sorts of health issues. The article is titled Did Angelina Jolie Make a Mistake By Acting On The ‘Breast Cancer Gene’ Theory? Do yourself a favor and click on the link and read that article.
I particularly appreciated the author’s assertion that “even in those in which a BRCA mutation is identified, the genes, in and of themselves, do not alone make the disease.” I have been endeavoring to teach that particular line of thinking via my posts on this site. In June, 2012 I wrote an article Cancer Genetics: BRCA1 and BRCA2 Are NO Cause For Concern! wherein I shared some information from the book “The Biology of Belief”, by Dr Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist, whose research and studies clearly indicate that many other factors are at play in health and disease than merely genetics.
To quote again from the greenmedinfo article, “…we must now accept that factors beyond the control of the gene, known as epigenetic factors, and largely determined by a combination of nutrition, psychospiritual states that feed back into our physiology, lifestyle factors, and environmental exposures, constitute as high as 95% of what determines any disease risk.“
Did you get that? Epigenetic factors (factors beyond the control of our genes) constitute as high as 95% of what determines disease risk. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They have the ability to prevent and heal all disease if they are given the right conditions!
Human Genes Should NOT be Patented
The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is that Ms Jolie’s decision is going to persuade thousands of other young women to do the same – to needlessly lose a valued part of their anatomy. Not every woman with a mutation will develop breast cancer! And Myriad Genetics, the patent-holders of the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, are profiting. According to a Yahoo Finance report dated May 14, 2013, Myriad Genetics’ shares rose 4% after Angelina Jolie announced her mastectomy surgery.
I support an activist group called Breast Cancer Action, who in 2009 joined researchers, genetic counselors and cancer patients in a lawsuit to overturn Myriad Genetics’ patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling is expected this summer. Please visit this page on the Breast Cancer Action website for more information.
My best advice is to do three things:
1. Sign up for my free newsletters to find out how best to reduce your risk of breast cancer;
2. Sign up for the free newsletters offered by greenmedinfo.com (use this link);
3. Donate funds to Breast Cancer Action (use this link), help them to continue their good work, compelling the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.