The ‘Angelina Effect’

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Imagine this. You are one of the world’s most beautiful women. You have six beautiful children and a husband that is adored by millions. You are an ambassador for human rights and a crusader for women around the world.

But there is one battle you are fighting for yourself.

Staring down the barrel of an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer, and a 50 per cent chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Angelina Jolie-Pitt, just like many women, was faced with a harrowing decision.

To remove the very parts of her body that make her feel most like a woman…or to risk developing the same cancer that tragically took both her mother and her aunt’s lives.

It’s a narrative that women across the globe live through all too often.

The sad truth is, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, while 1 in 50 will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

For those with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, it’s tragically higher.

Jolie-Pitt’s decision to remove both of her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes put a spotlight on our right to choose when it comes to cancer treatments. In her editorial in the New York Times, she boldly declared that the she took vanity out of the equation and chose life, stating, “I know my children will never have to say, Mom died of ovarian cancer”.

Her reasons are clear and her actions courageous.

It was a decision made not out of fear, but was the product of in-depth research and well-informed consideration of what was the right medical option for her. Afterall, knowledge is power.

What happened next was truly astounding.

By speaking out about her experience, Jolie-Pitt encouraged women who are considering a mastectomy or oophorectomy, to take their health into their own hands, arming themselves with information about their own risks and treatment options into the future.

Since May 2013, the ‘Angelina Effect’, a sample survey saw the amount of women who became aware of mastectomy or oophorectomy, as a preventative procedure rose from 88.9 per cent to 92.6 per cent and the demand for genetic testing nearly doubled.

Alaura Hernandez is one of thousands following her lead, undergoing a bilateral mastectomy in 2014 which was inspired by Jolie-Pitt’s announcement.

“For many people, it’s very drastic but for me, it was a no-brainer”, she said.

Refusing to let her quality of life be affected by a disease she is genetically predisposed to, Alaura, like Jolie-Pitt, educated herself to make the best decision possible for herself and her family.

Of course, it is not possible to remove all risk, but by removing this tissue, it can decrease the chances by 90 per cent.

We must remember that this is not an easy decisions to make, but it is possible to take control of our health and tackle tough decisions head-on to make the best choice for you.

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