Angelina Jolie deserves praise for her decision to reveal in a New York Times op-ed that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy. She had the surgery after discovering she carried a gene mutation that gave her a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. As an engaged and informed patient taking control over her own health, Jolie is a role model.
But it would be a mistake to view the actress’s experience as instructive for most women who live in fear of developing breast cancer, a disease that claims the lives of some 40,000 American women every year. Jolie’s disclosure comes at a time when more and more breast cancer patients who don’t have a high genetic risk factor are opting for single or double mastectomies, even though those surgeries don’t necessarily increase their chances of survival. It also comes after decades of breast cancer awareness campaigns…
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