HomeHealth & FitnessJolie right to minimise cancer risk

Jolie right to minimise cancer risk

American actress Angelina Jolie (pictured right) has over the past few days been criticised by some for taking a pre-emptive strike against potential breast cancer.

After subjecting herself to genetic tests she discovered that she had a very high chance of suffering breast cancer. She decided to have a double mastectomy (breast removal), as a means of reducing the chances of developing breast cancer in the future.

The operation itself was not such a big issue for some of her fans. What they criticised her for was her blow-by-blow account of the operation and the eventual reconstruction of cosmetic breasts. There were sympathetic reactions but she was also attacked for flaunting her wealth. Some people thought she was exhibiting a complete lack of sensitivity towards the millions of poor women battling breast cancer worldwide.

She was waxing lyrical about her operation and subsequent cosmetic surgery, when most victims of breast cancer cannot even afford radiation or chemotherapy here.

Genetic mapping could save lives

There were also mixed feelings about getting tested and taking pre-emptive precautions. Women do not deal very well with losing a breast, let alone both. Breasts are part of our sexuality. They are a major part of our life, who we are and for any woman to make the decision to have a double mastectomy, is something that should not be taken lightly. Yes, she has money and had new breasts reconstructed but deep down she will always miss her real breasts. Those who attack her do not realise just how big a decision that was for her.

Most people are scared of finding out about possible future health problems. I think it is important if you have the courage to make the decision to know what your genetics might end up subjecting you to.

If I could afford it I would like to go through genetic mapping. I would like to know if I am at risk of suffering various types of cancer. I would also like to find out if I am destined to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Sometimes knowing helps you plan your life better.

Knowing what genetics might throw at you in future helps you make informed health decisions. While some people might think Jolie was a bit insensitive in her sharing, I think it is important to accept that people have different ways of dealing with bad news.

Cancer is not an easy thing to live with. Anyone who has suffered from cancer or has had to look after a family member suffering from cancer knows that it takes a major toll on one’s body and soul.

Just merely accepting that one has cancer is a huge step. Living positively with cancer is a major battle. Cancer treatment sucks the life out of most patients.

It is for this reason that those living in countries where medical research and treatment is at an advanced stage would rather know before they get sick. If it can be prevented some people will do whatever it takes to prevent it. It is the sensible thing to do.

In Zimbabwe and most third world countries, genetic mapping is something we can only read about. We live in an environment where accessing low-level medical treatment or drugs is guaranteed only for a few citizens. Most people cannot afford to pay for even the least expensive pain pills.

We lag behind in so many medical developments that we are grateful for the little medical help we can get. Healthcare is not a major priority. Politicians would rather allocate more money to security and defence forces than ensure that clinics and hospitals can actually provide proper health care. Maybe one day when we get our politics right, we will also realise the importance of investing in medical research and allocating more money towards bringing the country’s health sector to the same levels as those countries that invest in the health of their nationals.

If you can afford it, get your genetics mapped and find out if you will need more and specialised health care in the future. We have come to terms with getting HIV-tested, we should set aside a week every year when we get a whole battery of tests —full medical. It costs less to prevent illness than to have to go through treatment. If you take control of your own health, you have better chances of living a fuller, happier and healthier life.

email: Mudiwa2002@yahoo.com
Twitter: GraceMutandwa1

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