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I find it a little hard to believe that more women are
getting tested for the breast cancer gene just because of Jolie. I was tested for the breast cancer gene in January after
a biopsy of the calcifications in my right breast came back as positive. I also
have some family history of breast cancer and am a Jew of Eastern-European
descent, all of which makes me more likely than many to carry the BRCA1 gene
mutation (although, as it turns out, I am not a carrier).
Had none or only one or two of those three factors presented
themselves, the test for the gene might have cost me more than $5,000
— and that’s with a good
insurance plan. Fortunately (or unfortunately), since I was deemed a high risk,
my out-of-pocket expense was zero. While I (kind of) like Angelina Jolie, my
admiration for her bravery in speaking
out so publicly about her preventative bilateral mastectomy is not
nearly enough to spend $5,000 in her honor. I have a feeling I’m not alone. I have
a hunch women are simply more educated these days about their risks than they
are dazzled by Jolie’s star power.
At the same time the news broke about more women getting the
BRAC1 test, it
was also reported that more women are getting preventative bilateral
mastectomies even though it supposedly doesn’t increase their chance of
both breasts to treat cancer affecting only one side doesn't boost survival
chances for most women, compared with surgery that removes just the tumor, a
large study suggests. The results raise concerns about riskier, potentially
unnecessary operations that increasing numbers of women are choosing.”
Come chat with my kids. And please look in their eyes while you judge my decision. I’ll wait.
woman who made a choice to have her non-cancerous breast removed, what stuck
out to me in that lede was the phrase “for
most women.” Along with the slightly older study that showed mammograms don’t save lives, I challenge the
researchers, doctors and armchair surgeons among us to chat with my small
daughters and ask them if they’d rather I had waited until my cancer potentially
spread before doing something about it instead of getting a mammogram, and to
see if it occurred in the other breast before getting it removed — in both
cases the condition could have been much more advanced by the
time it was detected.
really, come chat with my kids. And please look in their eyes while you judge
my decision. I’ll wait.
not news to me that the chance of my cancer returning is only a few percentage
points lower than if my left breast remained intact. But the fact remains that
it’s still marginally lower. Marginally, of course, means low, but that there
was any chance of reducing my risk was enormous to me.
there a risk to the surgery, too? Yep. Was it low, but in the same way, also
this year, Marc Silver spoke on NPR about his wife choosing not
to remove either breast after her cancer diagnosis, and after 13 years, she’s
doing great, which is great. As he said, a bilateral mastectomy doesn’t
entirely eliminate the fear of recurrence. Except for women like me who want to
do everything they possibly can to reduce the risk, it’s still worth it.
Silver’s wife, it’s brave of some women to decide that statistics are on their
side and a lumpectomy, radiation and wait-and-see attitude are good enough for
them. There are also of plenty of other women, like me, who decide that the
anxiety of waiting-and-seeing is more potentially painful than a preventative
my recurrence risk is only 2 to 3 percent now as opposed to 5 to 6 percent had I
chosen to leave my left breast alone, it’s that 4 percent difference that allows
me to sleep a little better at night.
family doesn’t lump me into the “for most women” category. In fact, I’d hazard
a guess to say most other women and their families also don’t feel as if they
are “most women,” either. I am me. Whether
I cut off my arm to fix a cuticle or a lopped off a breast to prevent even the
most remote possibility of cancer returning, I do what I do to improve the
quality of my life and ensure its quantity, too.
there’s a study on this, but I don’t need one to tell me if what I’ve done is
right, wrong, wholly ineffective or only a marginal improvement. Maximizing every
effort to be here for my family is the only proof I require.