What YOU need to know about protecting your breasts after Angelina Jolie's mastectomy
What to learn from Angelina Jolia's preventative mastectomy and how women everywhere can empower themselves towards better breast health and worry less about breast cancer
Upon hearing that Angelina Jolie decided to have both of her breasts removed to help decrease her chances of developing breast cancer, I couldn’t help myself from researching the tabloids as if they were major medical journals. What woman could? There is no way that you are hearing it here first, so I won’t go into more than the basic details. Angelina Jolie revealed in a New York Times Op-ed on May 14, that she had chosen to have a preventative double masectomy because she is a carrier of the BRCA1 gene and thus was at an increased risk for developing both breast and ovarian cancers.
I think it is important that the article states this was her “medical choice” and that she says near the very beginning that “only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation.” She also reminds women that: “Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries.” Near the end of the article, she also mentions that there are many holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery and promises to reveal her own regime in the future.
There are a few major take-aways from this article for women and I want to make sure that in the furor that arises, eco-curious mamas everywhere hold on to them.
- It is important for science and knowledge to stay accessible. What do I mean, you may ask? Well, while all this hubbub is going on with Angelina Jolie there is an important Supreme Court case also being heard. Angelina Jolie knew she was at such a high risk of breast cancer because her mother’s early death from breast cancer caused her to have genetic testing done. The access to that genetic testing (and research related to cures) is currently in danger because there is one company, Myriad, that owns the patent on that gene and therefore has a monopoly on all the research related to those genes. The whole thing reads like a weird, and dark, Sci-Fi book. The Atlantic has a good article on the issue that is easy to follow.
- You are more likely to get breast cancer because of an array of “environmental” and other life factors--a lot more likely--than due to genetics. That takes awhile to really sink in: just because every woman in your life is breast cancer-free doesn’t mean that you will be. Dr. Aviva Romm, medical doctor, midwife, author, and mom, puts it this way: “But the reality is that most women (more than 9 out of 10) who develop breast cancer have no predisposing genetic risk, and 50% have no conventionally recognized risk factors at all, thus making it all the more terrifying a specter.” What does cause breast cancer if not genetics? Dr. Romm says: “While we don’t know exactly what causes breast cancer in any given woman, we do know that breast cancer is likely a complex interplay of genes, genetic damage, and immune health, all of which are influenced by lifestyle, diet, and our environment.”
- You are not entirely powerless, you can do things that give yourself your best chance at breast health through lifestyle choices. Angelina Jolie is not the first person I have known to choose a preventative double mastectomy after discovering they had a strong genetic predisposition towards it. That was her taking back some of the power in a situation where many women feel powerless. If you don't have the same strong genetic predisposition towards breast cancer (and even if you do) there are other ways to take back some sense of power as well. Some of my friends who have developed breast cancer had progressive doctors that were well aware of the environmental risks that women face simply by being a woman in today’s increasingly toxic world. Those toxins love to hang-out in our breast tissue and many of them stay in their for a lifetime or until we get pregnant and pass part of our toxic burden onto our children. I am thankful for these doctors, friends, and researchers who have shared their discoveries with us. I believe it helps women to acknowledge that living in a toxic world has put women at particular risk through no fault of our own and that we can improve our chances for health and survival through knowledge and lifestyle action.
What are those things you can do to help decrease your chances of getting breast cancer?
Your Best Chance Guide for Breast Health by The Green Mama
(In the movie version Angelina Jolie will play The Green Mama)