Dr. Anna Garrett

Why Angelina Jolie’s Ovaries Are None of Our Business

Angelina Jolie is no stranger to controversy. Two years ago, she had a double mastectomy because she carries the BRCA-1 gene that dramatically increases her risk of developing breast cancer. And now she’s making headlines again for having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed for the same reason.

As expected, the rush to judge her decision is on.

Personally, I think this is none of anybody’s business.

She’s got some very powerful reasons for making her decision. First, her mother died of ovarian cancer. Watching one’s mother go through the process of dying of any type of cancer is agonizing. I’ve been there. If you know that you are at high risk of having the same thing happen to you, I think it’s reasonable to make a decision that makes ovarian and breast cancers a non-issue.

Are there risks related to surgery? Sure. But in my mind those risks are worth taking if peace of mind and lowered stress for all concerned are the ultimate outcomes.

Second, her genetics put her at much higher risk of developing cancer. The BRCA-1 gene gives her about a 39% risk of developing ovarian cancer. Having the surgery reduces that risk by 80-90%. I totally get that math! You can learn more about the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes here.

And lastly, they are HER ovaries! Who are we to judge a decision she believes is in the best interest of her health and her future with her family? People that decry her as a “self-mutilator” and “carcinophobe” don’t know what it’s like to have a doctor look at you and say “you have the BRCA-1 gene”.

I understand that her decision may influence other women who don’t have the same set of circumstances to consider surgery that’s not indicated. However, I’d like to think that healthcare providers would take the time to carefully review options and risks with women who show up on their doorstep demanding removal of their ovaries.

If nothing else, she is helping to raise awareness about these serious women’s health issues. After her mastectomy surgery, genetic screening for BRCA genes went up 110% and that alone has at least given women who are carriers a chance to explore options and decide what they want for their health. That is progress in my mind.

I believe that knowledge is power. Knowledge allows you to weigh the options. The choices you make for your health are no one’s business but your own.

What do you think? What would you do if you were in her position? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blog page!

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