Angelina Jolie Increases Rate of Elective Mastectomies

Image: Public Domain, SXC
Image: Public Domain, SXC

I’m probably a little behind the curve on this one since I don’t do celebrity gossip, but I learned yesterday about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. There seems to be both good and bad resulting publicly from her choice, but I can’t help shaking my head in disbelief on this one.

As I understand it, Jolie didn’t actually have cancer, only a high risk on it. She decided to have her breasts removed as a preventive measure. I really can’t see the sense in that. Why would you have a perfectly healthy body part removed? Just because there’s a chance something will go wrong with it later? Even a high chance doesn’t seem worth removing part of your own body.

The up side to her surgery is that a lot more women are looking into their family histories and getting themselves checked for breast cancer. That’s wonderful, as it may help women catch it earlier. What’s not wonderful is the fact that there has been a sharp increase in the number of women having elective mastectomies. Women are disfiguring themselves just to prevent something that may never happen to them.

I just can’t get my head around that. Even if there was a 99% chance that I’d get breast cancer, I’d hold on to the 1% chance that I wouldn’t and I’d keep my breasts. I can’t imagine anyone having body parts removed to prevent something that might never happen. What’s next? men having their testicles removed preemptively to avoid testicular cancer?

I’m actually shocked that there are surgeons willing to perform these procedures. Why aren’t they looking at these women and saying “You don’t need this. Don’t do it. Leave your body alone until something goes wrong. It might never go wrong.” But ethics are apparently ignorable for the right price. And here’s the real kicker: Mastectomies greatly *reduce* the risk of developing cancer, but don’t eliminate it. So one may have her breasts removed and still get cancer.

What do you think about women getting elective mastectomies?


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