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Breast Health In the Media

Last Tuesday Angelina Jolie graced the Op/Ed pages of the New York Timeswith a highly personal letter about her recent double mastectomy and future health plans. Days later the health world retaliated with all the reasons why a preventative mastectomy even in the face of a high-risk gene pool is a medical risk in and of itself.

The facts and personal stories were flying and it seemed like a lot of people were missing the moment.

I’m a women’s health specialist. I’m not a breast health specialist and certainly not a cancer specialist. On a daily basis I research and treat gynecological disorders and mood disturbances. That is my realm. However, I am an advocate for the voice of women in the health world. Not female doctor’s voices, but the female patient’s voice. And I am an advocate for the appreciation and recognition of the female form as female and beautiful in whatever shapes it takes throughout life.

In my opinion what Angelina Jolie did last Tuesday was far more than reveal that her mother died of cancer and she is worried about her children living without a mother. Angelina Jolie, sex icon of this generation, declared that she had removed both of her breasts in support of her own health. Angelina Jolie’s breasts and body are legendary and to make such a simple statement was a declaration that she would still be a sex icon. She declared publicly that her womanliness was only improved by being a health-conscious woman and mother. I for one believe her.

If we truly believe that women should have preventative surgeries to keep their bodies safe (and I don’t know one way or another if that is the best course of action) we also need to follow up that surgery with the approval and recognition of that decision as sexy and smart. We need to appreciate the new body as female and strong and beautiful.

The argument about whether preventative surgery is the healthiest choice also needs to take into account how much love a woman is capable of giving herself after the surgery. If the surgery leads to shame, self-disgust and a lack of feeling womanly in society then there are repercussions that are not based on surgical mishaps.

Really this argument could be made about numerous procedures that women receive throughout their life. Whether it is a C-section scar, stretch marks from pregnancy, breast augmentation to decrease back pain and so on and so forth.

A woman’s health is her choice and it is impossible to say that every woman with a similar genetic makeup or similar health history should make the same decisions. Our lives are complicated, our finances our complicated, family structures are complicated. Most decisions that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt make together are going to be insanely different than the average family, but some of them may be quite similar.

The medical field needs to advocate for the innate intelligence and therefore voice of each woman and each family. Whatever decision is made should be acknowledged and respected by society at large.

There is not enough evidence to show if healthy eating, exercise, and living mindfully while having high-risk genes can increase or decrease your risk of developing cancer in your lifetime. We just don’t know enough about a healthy lifestyle to be deterring or scaring women away from trying to prevent cancer in anyway they feel is right and manageable for their body.

Whatever a woman’s decision is, I for one really appreciate Angelina Jolie’s voice on the subject and the unspoken message that knowledge is sexy, taking control of your health is sexy and a healthy body in any form is sexy!

Image credit: magicinfoto / 123RF Stock Photo

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