Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone surgery to remove her breasts after learning she had the BRCA1 genetic mutation, and there was widespread discussion all over the world about her decision. And while the news impacted social media, it seems that Angelina Jolie’s admission of her double mastectomy did not lead to an increase of women getting examined for breast cancer.
Jolie had hoped that by admitting she had cancer and discussing her decision, other women would want to get themselves checked out. Yet in a new study, that does not seem to be the case. While over 75 percent of Americans knew that Jolie got a double mastectomy, it did not lead them to learn more about the disease, according to the University of Maryland researchers.
Jolie wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times in May that she had discovered she carried the mutating gene that increases a person’s chance of getting breast cancer. Since her mother died at the age of 56 from breast cancer, Jolie decided in order to prevent the cancer from even forming, she opted for surgery to remove both of her breasts and lowering her risk. News spread all over the world, and people were talking about breast cancer awareness.
In the study, researchers surveyed over 2,500 Americans. Only less than 10 percent of the responders could correctly explain the mutating gene and how it raises the risk of a woman getting breast cancer. Dina Borzekowski, the lead researcher, stated that when Angelina Jolie’s story broke, that should have been the time for researchers and doctors to teach the public about the gene and the facts on the risk. She stated that women getting cancer from the gene is rare, and that most women who are diagnosed with cancer do not have any relatives with the disease.
But, there was a silver lining to the survey, according to Borzekowski. More than half women who heard about Jolie’s story would make the same decision to have the surgery if they learned the same thing, and almost 75 percent of people said Jolie did the right thing by speaking about her experience.
It seems that when a celebrity had a health scare, sometimes it doesn’t lead to more awareness for other people to get themselves tested. Another author on the research, Katherine Smith, stated that while celebrities who mention health scares gets noticed, it is up to doctors to help educate the public on the facts and what they should do to protect themselves.
Other celebrities who spoke up on their health issues have had mixed results. When Magic Johnson announced he had AIDS, people started to realize how widespread the disease could be, and he brought an increased awareness by raising money and speaking out. On the flip side, when Jenny McCarthy linked her son’s autism to flu shots, there was uproar among doctors who said that her claim had no fact to it and she was misleading the public with her allegations.
Either way, it is important for people to get tested, no matter what a celebrity says. Even if Angelina Jolie’s admission of her double mastectomy did not lead to an increase of women getting examined for breast cancer, at least the conversation got started.
By Renayle Fink