Angelina Jolie: Mastectomies For Everyone?

Is it for you?  If you've just been diagnosed with breast cancer, are you going to opt for the "guaranteed" cure?  I say guaranteed because nothing, with cancer, is.

But would you take the route Jolie did?  With an 87% chance of getting the disease, she made, I believe, the right decision.  More and more women are opting for this more drastic approach, even though researchers have found that lumpectomy is often just as effective.

More women, also, are choosing to have both breasts removed, even if only one is cancerous.  I took this route.  At the time, I had a 5-year-old and I wanted to do anything I could to be around him.  Looking back, would I have made the same choice, after complications with reconstruction due to lumpectomy and radiation, the first time around?

Probably, yes.  Cancer strikes such deep fear in all of us.  Even though two out of three people now survive cancer, I don't know anyone who doesn't immediately think about death when diagnosed.  (Me included.)

When it came back a second time, there's no discussion.  All patients are advised then to have a mastectomy (even though you can still die from breast cancer after having one).

So is it wise to cut off "chunks of your body," just to prevent a disease, as Susan Love put it in a recent article in The New York Times.  It's a very personal decision.  But if you, like me, want to give yourself the best chance of living cancer-free -- and at peace -- this was the right one for me.

It will never be anything I'm happy about.  And sadly, I have too many friends who have also gone down this path.   But even if the choice wasn't really life or death, and I took a more drastic action than was required, I'd still have made this same decision.  (Though my oncologist did say, after everything, "I think you went too far"!)

When it comes down to it, each case is different.  Angelina didn't want to live with this hanging over her head, and I didn't either.  While I did not have the mutation that foretells cancer, I still got the disease (only 5 to 10% of breast cancer is hereditary).  So, go for your annual mammogram (don't listen to the ones saying once every three years).  Had I not gotten mine nine years ago, I would be dealing with invasive cancer and a very different prognosis.


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