Fighting breast cancer through preventative mastectomies


When The New York Times printed Angelina Jolie's opinion piece outlining her choice of a preventative mastectomy, the public conversation began anew, sparked by her fame and her candor and the realization that genetic technology offers many women informed choice. Today, we pick up on that conversation with three women who made their own choices.

Panel: Maura Young / Tanya Stella / Peggy Orenstein

Angelina Jolie sounded hopeful for her mother's chances in 2006. But just a year after that interview with CNN, her mother succumbed to cancer. She regretted how her mother didn't live to meet all her grandchildren.

And in an op-ed for the New York Times yesterday, the award winning actress revealed she carries a genetic mutation linked to cancer. The mutation, and her mother's illness convinced Angelina Jolie to take dramatic action -- to have both of her breasts removed -- a procedure known as a preventative double mastectomy.

6 questions about Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy — CBC News

Because of her fame, her choice became headline news. But there are many, many less famous women who grapple with the same drastic decision.

Maura Young was diagnosed with breast cancer and had her mastectomy at 37 years of age. She was in our Toronto studio.

Tanya Stella is a 39 year old mother of 3 who found out she has the breast cancer gene in 2006 but has yet to decide whether to undergo a preventative mastectomy. She was in Prince George, B.C.

And Peggy Orenstein is a contributing writer to The New York Times magazine, who has been treated for breast cancer twice but never opted for a preventative mastectomy. She was Berkeley, California.

Resource Link: Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada has a program, In Our Genes dedicated to genetic testing, prevention and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). As well they have a list of support groups for people with BRCA 1/2 mutation.

Breast Cancer in the Family: What You Need to Know (PDF) — In Our Genes Hereditary Booklet

This segment was produced by The Current's Vanessa Greco, Virginia Smart and Karin Marley.

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Other segments from today's show:

Alexandra Jamieson: I'm not vegan anymore

The ethics of academic boycotts

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