Sunday, 19 May 2013

Getting it off your chest

Jolie: Considered the odds
and made an informed choice
Breast cancer treatments, and specifically mastectomies, have been in the press a lot this week.

It was prompted by Angelina Jolie's very well-written piece in the New York Times, in which she explained her decision to have preventative surgery after discovering that she had one of the BRCA genes that give a much heightened chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

However, as she also points out - and which has largely been missed in the wider reporting of this story - the genetic BRCA cases account for a tiny proportion of breast cancer diagnoses as a whole.

So while it is true that carrying the BRCA gene increases your risk to between 50-90% chance of developing one of the several different breast cancer diseases, the vast majority of breast cancers are random and sporadic and down to sheer (bad) luck.

Angelina's piece is very honest and does allude to the complexity of the surgery and the mental and physical impact that mastectomy can have. It is not a straightforward process; it is protracted, painful and, while the cosmetic outcomes can be very good, your breasts will never look or feel the way that they did.

Indeed, they could look better! Mine probably do. But I would be lying if I said the implants feel natural under my skin and I'm not conscious of them every single day. Of course, not everyone has implant reconstruction and many use their own fat and body tissue. This probably feels quite different to implants but it is still a very complicated and uncomfortable process.

Which is why I get REALLY annoyed when people make mastectomies sound like they're simple or straightforward. It's bloody insulting. Especially when, like mine, it was a life or death necessity not a choice.

Heaton: Shut yer cakehole
Take, for example, Michelle-Liberty-X-Heaton. I really do wish that woman would shut her big shiny face. And, yes, I know she's had a preventative double mastectomy; we ALL know, it's all she ever talks about. She's become a cancer-free-rent-a-quote, resurrecting her flagging career by constantly harping on about her, and others', 'media mastectomies'.

And was it really necessary to give interviews from her hospital bed, bleating on about how easy it all was? Maybe it was for you, love, but I'm nine months in and still not finished! She seriously gets on my tits ... Grrr.

*deep breaths*

On the plus side, however, it does allow the breast cancer charities to stay in the public eye; they just need to ensure that the information given remains realistic and objective.

One in eight women will get diagnosed with breast cancer and the vast majority of cases will have no genetic link. So stay vigilant and check. I would never have thought I could get breast cancer at 38, but I did, and I'm hearing more and more cases of women in their 20s and 30s.

That's not to scaremonger but please be aware that the risk is there and that you don't need to have a family link for breast cancer to occur. Once diagnosed though, the treatments are good ... and you might even get a perky new pair out of it!

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