Medicine, Mutilation or Stock Manipulation? The Strange Case of Angelina Jolie

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Depending on where you look, Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy as a protective measure against breast cancer is being described as incredibly brave, amazingly ill-informed or unbelievably greedy and manipulative. We take a look at some of the issues raised by this larger-than-life story.

Just the facts, ma’am

Last week, it emerged that Angelina Jolie had had a double mastectomy to drastically reduce her future chances of developing breast cancer, declaring that she, “Feel[s] empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity”. Jolie’s DNA carries a mutation in the DNA repair-related BRCA1 gene, which is strongly linked to breast cancer development – the risk in her case, according to her doctors, was a whopping 87%.  Opting for such radical surgery has, they assure her, reduced her breast cancer risk to under 5%.

Furthermore, Jolie had a strong family history of cancer. Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007, and Jolie’s own lifetime ovarian cancer risk has been estimated at 50%. Reportedly, Jolie is considering oophorectomy to remove her ovaries as well.

The mainstream media applause for Jolie’s decision has been deafening, and even British politicians couldn’t resist climbing aboard the bandwagon.

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