Published May 16, 2013
Noreen asked me to fill in for her today. Don't worry, she has actually been feeling better this past week. She got to take a break from chemo, which always makes her feel better, and she learned her tumor markers dropped from 600 to 53!
We are very excited about that bit of news.
The reason I am writing this week is because there has been a lot of attention given to the announcement by Angelina Jolie that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction when she learned she had the BRCA (BReast CAncer ) gene.
I, too, had the surgery after testing positive for the gene. People, myself included, were stunned by Angelina's announcement. When one of the most famous and arguably beautiful women in the world has a preventative mastectomy, it sheds a spotlight on the issue and reminds us that not even fame and fortune can save us from cancer.
Since Angelina "came out," breast cancer advocates, doctors, news commentators and others have given their opinions on whether or not Angelina and other women with the breast cancer gene and/or breast cancer have made the "right" decision by having a double mastectomy.
But there is no "right" or "wrong" in these situations. No one wants a mastectomy . . . no one. Women (and some men) choose the long, painful and disfiguring surgery to either remove cancer from their bodies or to try and prevent it when they have a greatly increased risk of getting breast cancer.
Angelina and I had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. Eighty-seven percent! You have all followed Noreen's blogs. She is one of my closest friends. When I compared having a mastectomy to what she has endured, for me, a mastectomy felt like the better option.
Still, the message I want to send is that surgery is not the only option for women who have the breast cancer gene or otherwise have an increased risk. The important thing is that you don't keep your head in the sand. Information is power.
You should talk to your health care provider and determine whether you are at an increased risk. If testing for the breast cancer gene is recommended, just remember your life won't change if you find out you have it; you just have more information so you can explore more options.
Surgery is just one option. Women at high risk are also eligible for increased screenings, which could help "catch" cancer early and give you a fighting chance if you do develop the disease. Like I said, there is no right or wrong answer, but when you have all of the information, you can determine what option is best for you.
Noreen will be back next week. Until then, keep up with her on Facebook
Michelle McBride is the President of the Noreen Fraser Foundation.