We have no doubt that many of our readers read Angelina Jolie’s Op-Ed piece in The New York Times last week. It was one of the newspaper’s most-read articles for several days and caused quite a splash, earning mentions in tabloids and gossip magazines.
In that article, the Academy Award-winning actress revealed that she had had a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she carried a gene that put her at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. By having the operation, she greatly reduced her risk of developing breast cancer.
(In case you missed the article, it can be read here.)
Jolie’s piece prompted many reactions, ranging from people who praised her for her courage to others who worried that it would set a precedent encouraging people to make important health care decisions without the advice of a doctor.
One reaction we found interesting came from a doctor who pointed out that Jolie learned she carried the dangerous gene after undergoing certain genetic testing. The doctor said that if such tests were more widely available, there could be a decrease in failure to diagnose breast cancer. (Such failures could constitute medical malpractice).
The problem right now is that the test runs, on average, $2,000, which of course is quite expensive for most people. In addition, many insurance companies will not pay for it. There is also some hesitancy among the general public to undergo genetic testing because it is still a foreign concept.
If genetic testing could help doctors make sound diagnoses and reduce the frequency with which they misdiagnose conditions of illnesses, we think the concept is a good one and should be studied more thoroughly. Hopefully, more decisions such as the one made by Angelina Jolie would be based on accurate medical data and reliable test results provided by the health care community in the future.
Source: Fox News, “Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy highlights need for less barriers to genetic testing,” Manny Alvarez, May 14, 2013