By Christina Burke
Actress and queen of Hollywood Angelina Jolie Pitt had a double mastectomy two years ago, and has recently announced her next step in combating ovarian cancer, the relentless disease that took the lives of both her mother and grandmother — the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Jolie addresses the public with a column in the New York Times, explaining the procedure she is having done and laying out her reasons for doing so. The column follows up from the last time she wrote about cancer preventive surgery, when she promised to keep the public updated on anything she found out, serving as a source of information for young women concerned about preventing breast and ovarian cancer.
With the help of the internet and freedom of speech, it never fails that celebrities doing anything remotely out of the ordinary receive at least a little bit of criticism. But in this case, let’s step away from the story and look at the issue.
Breast and ovarian cancer are among the leading causes of death of women today, and although progress is consistently being made, there is still no explicit cure or consistent rate of survival. One in eight women will experience the earth shattering moment of learning they have cancer, and the lack of information young women know about precautionary cancer prevention deserves more attention.
There are people criticizing Jolie for a number of reasons — she’s writing about her problems so she must be seeking attention, she’s inconsiderate for thinking that any of these expensive treatments would be an option for most women, and worst of all, she is giving up (literal) parts of her femininity.
I wish more people were acknowledging that Jolie, who knows that her fame and popularity holds influence, is using that influence for the greater good of women’s health on an issue that is actually very important.
After losing her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer, Jolie knew percentages of risks that she too would fall victim to the same fate. She doesn’t want her kids to experience growing up without a mother. Through extensive research and years of doctor consultations, Jolie is using these articles to compile information she has gathered and present it to the public in hopes of helping women struggling with the same issues, and I think that rocks.
As a young woman with a genetic cancer history similar to Jolie’s, I believe it is extremely important for girls my age to be educated about the steps of precaution to take in order to monitor potential cancer progression. I plan on utilizing Angelina's advice and am so appreciative that someone as influential as her can publicize her journey through something as difficult as this.
I have mad respect for Jolie, not only for going through with these procedures in a world that criticizes her for it, but also for reaching out to educate other women on the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer. As Jolie says in her latest column, “Knowledge is power."