Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Angelina Jolie writes about her dramatic medical decision.

The actor has undergone a preventative double mastectomy.

Tue, May 14, 2013, 10:29


Angelina Jolie writes in the New York Times today about having preventative surgery due being at high risk of developing cancer. Jolie revealed she carries the “faulty” gene BRCA1, which dramatically increases her chances of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand died in 2007 aged 56 from ovarian cancer.

Jolie is frank and unflinching in her description of the operations she’s undergone, writing that she’s talking about this now in order to highlight options available to women who do not know they might be “living under the shadow of cancer.”

She also writes about access to testing: “Breast cancerĀ alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.”

A few people (including the web editor of The Guardian) have pointed out how the New York Times treated the story, in a muted manner and not as the “big exclusive” that it is. Well, (a) the New York Times has class, and although plenty of publications and websites have spent many years obsessing over Jolie’s breasts this is a SLIGHTLY different situation. And (b) Jolie writes this piece in a completely detached and frank way, the way someone should write an awareness raising piece. There’s no self-indulgent ‘woe is me’ emotional rollercoastering, no drama, no ‘My Cancer Hell’ bullshit. She’s telling her story to let other women know what their options are. I didn’t even know a preventative double mastectomy was a thing. And that’s why it’s important that women with breast and ovarian cancer in their families and other women at risk through the very make-up of their genes read this and from it take new information, awareness and hope. This isn’t celeb goss.