Understanding Angelina Jolie’s Preventative Mastectomy

When most of us think about celebrities, we tend to think of red carpets, cameras flashing, and eveningwear that costs more than the Gross Domestic Product of some countries. And while that’s certainly the case for most of Hollywood’s elite, Angelina Jolie has been trying to make a difference in the lives of others for years. She began her good deeds around the globe, but with her latest health crisis, she’s bringing her efforts a little closer to home.

Humanitarian Work                                                                    

Jolie has said that she first became aware of the number of humanitarian crises while she was working on the movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Rider. After visiting refugee camps around the world, she was eventually named as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2001. Since then, she’s received a promotion to Special Envoy, adopted three at-risk children from Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. She and her partner, Brad Pitt, have also had three biological children of their own. Jolie works tirelessly to balance her life between acting, humanitarian work, and family.

Family Life

Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, now deceased, battled breast cancer before succumbing to ovarian cancer, as did her mother before her. On Tuesday, May 14, 2012, Angelina Jolie announced that she carries the defective BRCA1 gene which puts her at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer like her mother. Based upon that evidence, she decided to remove both of her healthy breasts in an effort to avoid the same fate as her mother.

Preventative Surgery for Breast Cancer

With increased access to genetic testing comes a never before seen ability to take preventative measures against a variety of diseases, including cancer. While it was once reserved for women who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, preventative mastectomies are becoming common for healthy women with a high hereditary risk, and the trend is expected to continue.

Preventative mastectomies are an increasingly prescribed treatment for reasons in addition to a family history of breast cancer. They’re becoming common ways to treat pain, dense breast tissue and fibrocystic breast disease. Jolie claims that her surgery reduced her risk of developing cancer from more than 80 percent to about five percent.

What We Can All Learn From Jolie

While Ms. Jolie’s choice is a controversial one, she should be applauded for taking control of her health care before a risk became a certainty. Experts estimate that about 10 percent of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and one of the best ways to cope with this life-threatening disease is to live a healthy lifestyle that’s designed to decrease our risk.

Preventing Breast Cancer Naturally

According to the American Cancer Association, just a few healthy changes in our lives can dramatically reduce our chances of developing breast cancer. These include:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding hormone therapy after menopause

These are wonderful tips for all women, as they will decrease our risk of developing many other health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

While Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo preventative mastectomy was a very personal one, the fact that she shared her experience with the rest of us is a wonderful opportunity for discussion and change. If you are at risk for developing cancer, please talk to your chiropractic team and learn how proper nutrition and exercise may be able to decrease your risk.


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