“My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56,” was the beginning of Angelina Jolie’s influential New York Times article on her recent double mastectomy. The 38-year-old actress is widely known not only for her successes as an actress and director, but for her beauty, sex appeal, and arguably the most famous lips of all time. (Though Steven Tyler might beg to differ…)
The Risk Factor
Jolie, the mother of six, felt this procedure was necessary after a screening revealed that she carried the “faulty” gene BRCA1. The implications of this discovery were an 87% chance of breast cancer and 50% chance of ovarian cancer— and neither was a chance that Jolie wanted to take. She hoped to ensure her children did not lose her to cancer in the same way that she watched her mother succumb to a ten-year struggle.
The star began with a double mastectomy, but has suggested she will also eventually have the second procedure. She wrote, “I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.”
Sharing her Experience
Though the Academy Award-winning actress lives much of her life in the limelight, she was able to keep things private throughout the medical processes. However, she shared her experience in hopes that other women would become more aware of their options. She acknowledged that the decision to have a double mastectomy was not easy, but is both happy and relieved she made it.
Jolie’s hopes of raising awareness were certainly fulfilled. After her decision went public, the nation’s renewed interest in educating themselves was apparent in numerous ways:
- Visits to the Wikipedia “Mastectomy” page jumped from just over 1,000 per day to over 300,000 on the day Jolie’s story was published.
- Angelina’s announcement inspired over 100,000 online mentions of mastectomy. (On an average day, there are less than 500 online mentions.)
- On the google trends scale, which runs from 0 to 100, interest went from about 2-3, to maxing out at 100.
The Angelina Effect
This overwhelming response is one of the many examples of what has been dubbed “the Angelina effect.” When she adopted a baby from Ethiopia, inquiries about other Ethiopian children at adoption agencies throughout America doubled. In the same way that her unique baby name choices like “Maddox” and “Vivienne” shot up in popularity in her wake, the interest in mastectomies has soared.
Who could blame the public’s interest in–and imitations of–this beautiful brunette bombshell? The mother of six, philanthropist, and eight-year partner to Brad Pitt has lived much of her colorful life in the spotlight. Sharing her double mastectomy story will no doubt have a positive influence on the throngs of individuals who have found themselves or a loved one in a similar situation.