Actress and director Angelina Jolie has experienced a great amount of support around her decision to have a double mastectomy to prevent her 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Jolie’s mother died at the age of 56 after fighting breast cancer for 10 years. Jolie, age 37, possesses the BRCA-1 (breast cancer) gene and her doctors estimated that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of developing ovarian cancer.
On April 27, Jolie finished the 3-months of medical procedures including a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery with implants. Jolie did not want to risk being taken from her beloved children early in her life. Jolie’s partner, Brad Pitt, has been supportive and stayed by Jolie’s side every step of the way.
In an opinion article written for the New York Times, Jolie says that she hopes her story can affect woman around the globe; she says many women do not know they are living under the shadow of cancer and urges them to get the proper screenings and tests to find out about their risks. This was a big step for Jolie who usually keeps her life very private; Jolie admits that her decision to have both breasts removed was deeply personal, but she is proud of her decision.
Jolie’s story is a true testament to being brave in the face of cancer and to the importance of knowing your risks so you can take the proper precautions. A lot of cancers, if found early, have a much higher survival rate than if it not caught early. Cancer prevention ranges from living a healthy lifestyle, to knowing family history, and getting the proper tests and screenings to find out if you are at a high risk.
The American Cancer Society recommends these early screening guidelines for most adults:
- Yearly mammograms for women starting at the age of 40
- Women with a family history of breast cancer can talk to their doctor about early screening options
- Starting at age 50, both men and women should begin early screening tests for colorectal cancer and polyps
- Testing should begin at age 21
- Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years
- Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years
Endometrial (uterine) Cancer
- Women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer around the time of menopause
- Some women with a family history of endometrial cancer should talk to their doctor about a yearly endometrial biopsy
- There are no early screening guidelines for lung cancer. However, if you are at a high risk of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking then you might be a candidate for screening and should talk to your doctor
- Starting at the age of 50 men should talk to their doctor about screening options
If you have a family history of cancer consult your doctor about your early detection options.
Stay Healthy Tips
The American Cancer Society recommends these tips to living a healthy lifestyle that is conducive to cancer prevention.
- Stay away from tobacco
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy including plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Protect your skin
- Know yourself, family history, and risks. This includes doing regular skin checks for signs of skin cancer.
- Go to regular doctor check-ups and follow the guidelines for cancer screening tests
Are you aware of your family history and risks of cancer? If not, make sure you find out so that you can take the proper steps to finding cancer early. Preventive surgery is not for everyone, but it is important to know your options. Please share your story on how you have worked to prevent cancer or prevent cancer from recurring; cancer fighters and survivors, like Jolie, have inspiring stories to share.