- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Tanner)
Since Angelina Jolie's decision to get a double mastectomy was revealed, the discussion regarding women's access to adequate, affordable medical care and preventative services has once again reemerged.
In a New York Times op-ed, Jolie revealed she underwent a double mastectomy after she was notified that she carried the BRCA 1 gene, which has been shown to lead to a higher rate of breast cancer developing in women who possess it.
Jolie revealed that the preventive procedure was conducted in phases over three months, beginning in February and ending on April 27.
"My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer … Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average," wrote Jolie.
"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex," she noted.
While it was brave of Jolie to come out and detail her experience, 27 million of women in the United States currently do not have health insurance. Of the women who do have such coverage, 77 percent still cannot afford the treatment describe by Jolie, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries … The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women," Jolie wrote.
She further explained that she decided to go public with her decision to bring awareness to the disease. The actress also aimed to highlight available treatment and preventative measures that are available to women who want to be proactive in dealing with cancer.
"I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action," said Jolie.