It's no secret that the risk of breast cancer increases with age but did you know that 80 percent of breast cancers are found in women older than 50, and 60 percent of them in women older than 65?
It is also deadlier for old women. Those who are 75 and older die at a much higher rate from breast cancer than younger women. My mother was one of them.
These thoughts came to mind yesterday after reading actor Angelina Jolie's Op-Ed story in The New York Times about her bilateral mastectomy. She chose it as a preventive measure because she carries the BRCA1 gene defect which sharply increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancers:
”My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.”
Ms. Jolie, who acknowledged that BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing costs $3,000 in the United States, says she decided to go public about her surgery and reconstruction because
“...there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer.
"It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”
Is it possible she means strong options like the elite Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills where she was treated.
Jolie's cavalier attitude toward cost ($3,000 just for the BRCA screening which is covered by Medicare only under severe restrictions) infuriated me. But I don't have to tell you about that because Ruth Fowler, writing at Counterpunch, has done a fine job of taking on the subject of a rich woman's privilege.
In response to Jolie's stated reason for her Op-Ed, Fowler writes:
”Really, Angelina? You honestly think that the 27 million (20%) of women in the US who don’t have health care, and the 77% who apparently have it, but still have to forego care because they can’t afford it even with insurance — you think that your Op Ed is actually going to do anything for these women except remind them that they don’t have access to the expensive screening tests you seem to think people don’t undertake simply because they haven’t read your article?”
And that's just the clean part of Fowler's rant. She is one pissed off woman – righteously so in my book even is she does put it a bit more profanely than I would - although not by much.
An important fact that Jolie omitted (among others) is that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations cause only about five to ten percent of breast cancers. Another is that Ashkenazi Jews are more likely than other ethnic groups to carry the gene mutation.
It is hard to discern the point of a 37-year-old privileged woman of wealth writing about her expensive preventive and reconstructive surgery – something hardly any other women in the U.S., let alone the world, could even dream of affording.
I might be impressed if Ms. Jolie used her celebrity to promote more money for breast cancer research so that fewer people would die of it each year. But the media and others around the web I read mostly seem to think she has done something important and many say she is “brave” to write this.
I don't get it. Do you?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Day Dream