A-List Opts In For Surgery

Angelina Jolie, a member of Hollywood's A-list and wife to Brad Pitt, recently published a New York Times article, describing her decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after realizing  she carries a mutated gene, BRCA1.

This discovery increases her risk of breast cancer to 87% and her risk of ovarian cancer to 50%.The publication of her Op-Ed piece, along with fellow celebrities, Sharon Osbourne and Wanda Sykes' similar confessions, has stimulated a lively discussion surrounding the choices available to women who are faced with the threat of breast and ovarian cancer. 

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With the onslaught of medical innovation, it makes sense that women who are predisposed to these types of cancer are gaining a firmer handle on their predicaments. While many applaud Jolie's understandably tough decision to undergo such an intensive surgery for preventive causes, this decision may not be ideal, or even affordable, for all women in a similar situation. For those who decide against surgery, other preventive measures are available.

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Regular Check Ups

One alternative is diligent surveillance. This means cancer screenings through mammography and clinical breast exams as an approach for possible early detection. For ovarian cancer, transvaginal ultrasounds, blood tests for CA-125 antigen, and clinical exams can also act as appropriate methods of surveillance.

Preventive Medication

Surveillance is made more efficient when joined with chemoprevention. This involves using natural or synthetic substances that have been proven to reduce the risk of developing or returning cancer. One approach to this method is the drug, tamoxifen, an FDA approved breast cancer treatment with a 50% success rate in reducing the risk of disease.

Exercise

Daily behaviors, when acted out over long periods of time, can greatly affect overall health, including the risk of cancer. There is substantial evidence that shows an association with regular physical activity and the reduced risk of breast cancer in women. Through choosing to partake in these physical behaviors, likelihood of disease can be dramatically decreased.

Beyond the medical options available, the most important thing is to be aware of the state of your health and visit your doctor regularly. While those with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer are more inclined to the disease, it is universally beneficial to play the offense and take control of your physical health.