Breast Friends: Why Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy Matters
20 May 2013 at 9:00am
In my wildest imagination, writes the Narcissista, I would have never thought the one thing I would have in common with Angelina Jolie is a double mastectomy.
Her stunning announcement in the NY Times touched me to the bone, and I couldn’t be more thankful for what she’s done.
Angelina’s decision to go public shines a spotlight on facets of breast cancer that are otherwise drowned out by the well intended but ubiquitous pink ghetto of walk-a-thons and yogurt lids; genetic testing, young women with breast cancer and breast reconstruction.
Whether genetic testing is for you or not, it raises awareness that a strong family history means you should be considering a surveillance program at a breast center at a younger age. You can learn more about genetic testing and surveillance at Pink Lotus, where Angelina’s doctor posts about her treatment and my favorite site, Breastcancer.org.
What’s more important, while Angelina didn’t have breast cancer, my hope is that women everywhere will realize this isn’t just an older woman’s disease. While only 7% of women under the age of 40 get diagnosed with breast cancer, women in this age group often have worse survival.
They get diagnosed at later stages because the dense breast tissue not only makes it harder to detect tumors, but also because insurance often won’t cover mammography for women under the age of 40 unless there’s a strong family history. What’s more alarming is a recent study in JAMA which says the young women diagnosed with breast cancer that has already spread is on the rise at a rate of about 3.6% a year between 2000 to 2009.
Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for me. Nine years ago at the age of 36, I was diagnosed (or rather misdiagnosed twice, then diagnosed) with Stage 1 triple negative breast cancer. If you’re not familiar with breast cancer sub types, triple negative is not good news. Looking mortality in the eye, there was no doubt a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction was the choice for me.