When Angelina Jolie chose to have a double mastectomy earlier in the year, she spoke out in the hope that it would raise the understanding of the disease. However, a study has concluded that Jolie did not educate people on breast cancer; just the preventative method available.
The study was undertaken by researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the University of Maryland School of Public Health. It was to determine whether Jolie helped to raise awareness of one of the biggest killers among females. 2,500 people in the United States were surveyed to find out the truth.
According to the results, three quarters know about the mastectomy that Jolie chose to go through, after telling the story to The New York Times. However, only 10 percent understood the condition that involved the BRCA gene mutation that Jolie found out that she had. The people surveyed were also asked questions about the typical people who were at risk of developing breast cancer, but again a small number could answer.
It is relatively worrying considering Jolie’s story spread across the world and touched the hearts of millions. Dina Borzekowski, lead author of the study published in the Genetics in Medicine journal, explained that a opportunity was missed to educate people about this rare mutation. Since the story was so prominent, it was the time for educators and health communicators to teach the public more about it, genetic testing, and preventative surgery, but they failed to do that.
Jolie spoke out about her double mastectomy in May, but it was not her fault that her story did not educate people on breast cancer. She explained in her story about her mother, who died at the age of 56 from the disease, and finding out that she had the same genetic mutation. Unfortunately, the Tomb Raider star may have caused confusion among people and how the disease could be genetic.
Borzekowski went on to explain that celebrities were not educators, but helped to raise awareness. This is exactly the thing that Jolie’s story has done. However, awareness is just the start.
Co-author of the published study, Dr. Debra Roter, explained that too many people have been falsely reassured into believing that they do not carry the risks of breast cancer because they do not have the genetic mutation. Unfortunately, more women develop the cancer every year without the family history than those that do. About 50 percent of those surveyed believed that they had a lower than average risk of developing the cancer. 39 percent who did have a close family member affected believed that their cancer risk was lower because they had heard of Jolie’s story. Among the quarter who were not aware of the story and had a close relative with the disease, 59 percent believed their risk of cancer was higher than average.
It is not to say that the actress was wrong for telling her story. However, Jolie did not educate people on breast cancer. Instead, she helped to raise more awareness. It is now up to the educators to use that chance to inform the public of the risks and truths.
By Alexandria Ingham