Is prevention better than the cure?

Angelina Jolie

Photo from the Press Association

You hear a lot of talk these days from people complaining that medical advances simply add to the stress of life by giving us yet more things to worry about. Pregnant women are offered too many scans too early or too late. Our children are given too many intrusive tests to check whether they’re over-eating or under-achieving, and every week ushers in a new dietary health scare.

Denial can be a wonderful thing – and I speak as the daughter of a confirmed head-in-the-sand ostrich. My mother really believed that what she didn’t know couldn’t hurt her. She dreaded every appointment with a GP or optician in case they gave her bad news. If medics couldn’t think of anything nice to say, she preferred that they didn’t say anything at all.

Then along comes someone who puts all our fears and doubts into perspective by grabbing doctors by the lapels and forcing them to give it to her straight. So here’s to the beautiful, brave and irrepressibly clear-eyed Angelina Jolie, who announced yesterday that she took the decision to lower her odds of developing cancer by having a double mastectomy.

Having watched her mother die of the disease at the age of 56 and, after consulting doctors, discovering that her own genetic make-up meant that, without intervention, her chances of contracting breast cancer was undeniably high, she decided to make this huge, pre-emptive strike. No head-in-the-sand, statistic-ignoring behaviour for this modern-day cancer warrior.

I usually hate it when people describe cancer in terms of a battle to be won or an enemy to be overcome – it gives the impression that somehow courage, strength of will or determination can actually protect you from something that is simply a physical disease. But sometimes, courage can change things. Facing things and taking action is usually a good idea. Of course doctors don’t have all the answers. And sometimes the answers haven’t been worked out yet. The longer we live, the more we know and there’s always the hope that medical advances might mean such drastic action may not be necessary in the future. But usually they do know what they are talking about. According to Ms Jolie, her chances of developing cancer have now dropped from a terrifyingly inevitable sounding 87% to below 5%. I for one salute her courage and determination to face her individual situation head on.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

2 Responses to Is prevention better than the cure?

  1. Joy Lee says:

    I agree completely with the article on Cancer – my next door neighbour has just opted for the same operation for the same reason. I admire both women and think that it takes a lot of courage to make that decision. Her reasoning was that she has 2 beautiful children and if by having this operation it allows her time to see them grow up + get married then in her eyes it was well worth going through. They are an inspiration to all us women.

  2. Carole Roberts says:

    I have gone through a double mastectomy recently, one was because cancer was found but very early and the other was my choice to be able to reduce the odds of it returning in the other.
    My mother died when I was a lot younger because she buried her head in the sand and did not go to the doctors when she should have, my daughter is worried and is going through genetic testing at the moment and this may also affect my granddaughter, but at least there are options now we have never had before so we can make informed choices about our long term health.
    I applaud Angelina for speaking out about something so personal, that could not have been easy.
    Keep well all. xx

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