WBEZ | breast cancer http://www.wbez.org/tags/breast-cancer Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en When Men Get Breast Cancer, They Enter a World of Pink http://www.wbez.org/news/when-men-get-breast-cancer-they-enter-world-pink-114761 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/breastMariaFabizioNPR.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At 46 years old, Oliver Bogler&#39;s reaction to a suspicious lump in his chest might seem typical for a man. He ignored it for three to four months, maybe longer. &quot;I couldn&#39;t really imagine I would have this disease,&quot; Bogler says. But when he finally &quot;grew up&quot; and went to the doctor, he was pretty quickly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.</p><p>Now what&#39;s interesting here is that&nbsp;<a href="http://faculty.mdanderson.org/Oliver_Bogler/Default.asp?SNID=0">Bogler</a>&nbsp;is a cancer biologist who regularly works with cancer cells, as senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of Texas&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mdanderson.org/">MD Anderson Cancer Center</a>&nbsp;in Houston. Even so, he figured the lump was a benign swelling of breast tissue.</p><p>And he had good reason to think so. Breast cancer is rare among&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-what-is-breast-cancer-in-men">men</a>. Only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases are in men. Still, that means about 2,600 men receive a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancerinmen/detailedguide/breast-cancer-in-men-key-statistics">diagnosis</a>&nbsp;of breast cancer every year.</p><p>But men typically don&#39;t think they are at risk, says&nbsp;<a href="http://faculty.mdanderson.org/Sharon_Giordano/Default.asp?SNID=0">Dr. Sharon Giordano</a>, an oncologist who also works at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. &quot;Men don&#39;t think of themselves as having breasts,&quot; Giordano says. &quot;They don&#39;t realize that all men have some residual breast tissue.&quot; So it&#39;s not unusual to see male patients like Bogler who come to her with more advanced breast cancer than the typical female patient.</p><p>This could be one reason why men have a lower life expectancy after a breast cancer diagnosis. According to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Gender+Differences+in+Breast+Cancer%3A+Analysis+of+13%2C000+Male+Breast+Cancers+from+the+National+Cancer+Data+Base">study</a>&nbsp;published in 2012, in the&nbsp;</p><p>And men not only can get breast cancer, they can also inherit the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet">BRCA1</a>&nbsp;and 2 genetic mutations which places them at greater risk. Like women, they can pass that mutation on to their children, who have a 50 percent chance of inheriting a parent&#39;s mutation.</p><p>Once men are diagnosed their treatment is pretty much the same as it is for women &mdash; typically surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy, radiation and hormone suppressing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/breast-hormone-therapy-fact-sheet">medication</a>&nbsp;like tamoxifen.</p><p>That was the case for Bogler, but with one big difference &mdash; he had a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mastectomy/basics/definition/PRC-20012749">mastectomy</a>. Most women choose&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/lumpectomy/basics/definition/PRC-20012706">lumpectomies</a>&nbsp;followed by radiation. This is often not an option for men, Giordano says, because their tumors are most commonly right behind the nipple where there&#39;s not a lot of breast tissue to remove.</p><div id="res465707303" previewtitle="The markings on Oliver Bogler's chest are used to guide radiation therapy."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The markings on Oliver Bogler's chest are used to guide radiation therapy." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/02/05/oliver_custom-2ec04e04e42e4f9ba628100a3eed81402625f4da-s800-c85.jpeg" style="height: 458px; width: 620px;" title="The markings on Oliver Bogler's chest are used to guide radiation therapy. (Courtesy of David Jay Photography)" /></div><div><div><p>Unlike women, most men don&#39;t have reconstructive surgery. That&#39;s probably because they don&#39;t even know it&#39;s an option, says Giordano. A lot of male patients would probably be interested in having nipple reconstructive surgery, Giordano says, &quot;So when they are out swimming, or playing basketball and have their shirt off, the surgical changes aren&#39;t quite so obvious.&quot;</p></div></div></div><p>And because breast cancer is so much more common among women, men with the disease can experience something of a &#39;gender misfit.&#39; Bogler wrote about his experience in a personal blog he called&nbsp;<em><a href="http://malebreastcancerblog.org/">Entering a World of Pink</a>.</em></p><p>When Edward Smith was diagnosed about four years ago, he went online to look for information and emotional support. The first couple of chat rooms he joined were not helpful, he says, when the participants found out he was a man. &quot;They weren&#39;t outright nasty or anything, but you could just feel that they were pulling back in terms of the conversation that was going on at the time,&quot; he says.</p><p>Eventually Smith found a site that was welcoming &mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lbbc.org/">Living Beyond Breast Cancer</a>. The women in this group were helpful, compassionate and willing to talk, Smith says. This was important because he was feeling a bit uncomfortable at work. Colleagues were just &quot;stupefied&quot; he says, &quot;because most people have never encountered a male who had breast cancer.&quot;</p><p>The website recently published a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lbbc.org/infocusmen">guide</a>&nbsp;for men. which Smith found particularly helpful. The medical information isn&#39;t so different from women, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lbbc.org/about/about-us/senior-leadership/jean-sachs-mss-mlsp">Jean Sachs</a>, executive director of Living Beyond Breast Cancer</p><p>It&#39;s also important, Sachs says, for men who test positive for the BRACA genetic mutations to understand that they can pass those mutations on to their children, which may encourage newly diagnosed patients to get tested.</p><p>The lack of awareness, even among doctors, oncologist Giordano says, means less money for needed research to figure out how breast cancer in men differs from women especially when it comes to life-saving treatment. Treatments for men are based on evidence from research trials with women. Giordano&#39;s now heading up research to better understand the biology of the disease in men and to try to figure out the most effective hormone therapy for men with breast cancer.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/08/465578231/when-men-get-breast-cancer-they-enter-a-world-of-pink?ft=nprml&amp;f=465578231"><em>&mdash; via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/when-men-get-breast-cancer-they-enter-world-pink-114761 Federal Panel Finalizes Mammogram Advice That Stirred Controversy http://www.wbez.org/news/federal-panel-finalizes-mammogram-advice-stirred-controversy-114446 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/mammograms-1_custom-a79a8d452855a3724b595ba1e096d3e7b1c3da98-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The mammography debate&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/04/20/401006116/federal-panel-revisits-contested-recommendation-on-mammograms">heated up once again</a>&nbsp;in April 2015, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft of its latest breast cancer screening recommendations.</p><p>Now, after the public had a chance to comment, the influential task force has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M15-2886">finalized the advice</a>, reiterating that women ages 50-74 ought to receive a screening mammogram every two years. The USPSTF says that women between 40 and 49 don&#39;t get as much benefit from screening as do older women, so they should&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/11/455482369/women-in-their-40s-get-some-help-with-the-mammogram-decision">make an individual decision</a>&nbsp;on when to start based on how they view the benefits and harms. (Women with a family history of breast cancer may benefit more from starting screening before age 50.)</p><p>&quot;Our recommendations support the entire range of decisions available to women in their forties,&quot;&nbsp;<a href="http://profiles.ucsf.edu/kirsten.bibbins-domingo">Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo</a>, a physician and vice chair of the USPSTF, told Shots. Some women may choose to begin at 40 or soon after, deciding they want to lower their cancer risk as much as possible and can handle the chance of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/15/448888415/called-back-after-a-mammogram-doctors-are-trying-to-make-it-less-scary">false positive results</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/21/165668987/with-routine-mammograms-some-breast-cancers-may-be-overtreated">possible overdiagnosis</a>, when cancer is discovered that never would have been harmful to health.</p><p>Other women, she says, may opt to wait until later in their 40s or until they turn 50.</p><p>The task force&#39;s supporting materials include statistical models estimating the lifetime consequences of screening women from ages 50-74 and from 40-74. For each 1,000 women screened, the model finds that starting screening at 40 means an estimated one additional breast cancer death averted (deaths drop from eight to seven), with 576 additional false positive tests (1,529 vs. 953), 58 extra benign biopsies (204 vs. 146) and two additional overdiagnosed cases of breast cancer (21 vs. 19).</p><p>The task force also says there&#39;s not enough evidence to say whether or not women 75 and older benefit from routine screening for breast cancer. The recommendations were published Monday in the&nbsp;Annals of Internal Medicine.</p><p>Since the draft was made public last spring, the American Cancer Society&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/20/449920789/cancer-group-now-says-most-mammograms-can-wait-till-45">changed its advice</a>&nbsp;for breast cancer screening, saying that average-risk women don&#39;t need to begin annual mammograms until age 45 and can start screening every other year beginning at age 55. Other medical groups still&nbsp;<a href="http://www.acr.org/About-Us/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2015-Press-Releases/20151020-ACR-SBI-Recommend-Mammography-at-Age-40">recommend annual screening starting at 40</a>.</p><p>While mammography guidelines differ, &quot;it&#39;s important for women and physicians to understand how much convergence there is,&quot; says Bibbins-Domingo. The groups agree that mammography has value as a screening tool, and that the value of screening generally rises with age.</p><p>The Affordable Care Act guarantees private insurance coverage of preventive services without out-of-pocket costs for consumers if the evidence supporting the test has an A or B grade from the task force.</p><p>But Congress requires full coverage of mammography in women in their forties, despite the C grade, which indicates there is &quot;at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small.&quot; In an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M15-3065">editorial</a>, the task force says that &quot;coverage decisions are the domain of payers, regulators, and legislators&quot; and that the group &quot;cannot exaggerate our interpretation of the science to ensure coverage for a service.&quot;</p><p>Just to be clear, this ongoing debate is over screening mammography, which means looking for signs of breast cancer in healthy women who have no symptoms of the disease. No matter your age, or whether or not you&#39;ve started regular screening, if you have symptoms, you need to see a doctor.</p><p><em>Katherine Hobson is a freelance health and science writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She&#39;s on Twitter:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/katherinehobson">@katherinehobson</a>.</em></p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/11/462693737/federal-panel-finalizes-mammogram-advice-that-stirred-controversy?ft=nprml&amp;f=462693737" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Mon, 11 Jan 2016 15:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/federal-panel-finalizes-mammogram-advice-stirred-controversy-114446 Hormones may help younger women with menopause symptoms http://www.wbez.org/news/hormones-may-help-younger-women-menopause-symptoms-113713 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/npr_menopause_wide-bdc3f0d1daeb5b077f445b6af3da34572198c086-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res455029793" previewtitle="Maria Fabrizio for NPR"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Maria Fabrizio for NPR" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/06/npr_menopause_wide-bdc3f0d1daeb5b077f445b6af3da34572198c086-s800-c85.jpg" title="Maria Fabrizio for NPR" /></div><div><div>&nbsp;</div></div></div><p>For Linnea Duvall, a marriage and family therapist who lives and works in Santa Monica, Calif., the symptoms of menopause started when she turned 50. She felt more irritable, a smidge heavier and she started waking up two to three times a night.</p><p>And then she had a hot flash.</p><p>&quot;It felt like a nuclear bomb went off right behind my belly button,&quot; she says. &quot;The radiation went out to my fingertips, the tops of my toes, the top of my head and the ends of my hair.&quot;</p><p>But Duvall would not consider&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007111.htm">hormone therapy</a>&nbsp;to control the flashes. She was terrified. She says she can sum up her fear in two words: &quot;breast cancer.&quot;</p><p>To understand why she feels this way, we have to look back a few decades to a time when many postmenopausal women were taking hormones to treat symptoms. At the time, hormones were thought of as something of an elixir of youth that could also prevent chronic disease. So women took hormones indefinitely. But a huge&nbsp;<a href="http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1745676">study</a>&nbsp;in 2002 changed everything.</p><p>Known as the Women&#39;s Health Initiative, it found that taking estrogen plus progestin hormone replacement therapy actually increased a woman&#39;s risk of heart disease and breast cancer. The study had a huge effect. Within months the number of women taking hormones in the U.S. dropped by almost half. Today, only about 10 percent of women aged 50 or over are on hormone therapy.</p><p>That was a huge overreaction, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.utianllc.com/">Dr. Wulf Utian</a>, director of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.menopause.org/">North American Menopause Society</a>, particularly in light of more recent findings. A more detailed&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24084921">analysis</a>&nbsp;of the Women&#39;s Health Initiative data found that age really made a difference in heart disease risk. For women who started hormone therapy between the ages of 50 and 59, there was a protective&nbsp;<a href="http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/whe.15.24">benefit</a>, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/joann-manson/">Dr. JoAnn Manson</a>, one of the lead investigators of the study and a professor of medicine at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.</p><p>Women who take hormones earlier after the onset of menopause may experience less plaque, blood vessel blockage, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis">atherosclerosis,</a>&nbsp;Manson says, &quot;And possibly even a reduced risk of heart attack. But for women over the age of 60 the benefit seems to disappear. This is probably because older women already have plaque buildup, Manson says.</p><p>Researchers in Denmark also&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6409">found</a>&nbsp;that age makes a difference. They looked at 1,000 healthy women between the ages of 45 and 58. The women who took hormones experienced significantly reduced risk of mortality, heart failure and heart attack.</p><p>Today, menopausal women are young in the scale of things, says Dr. Wulf Utian, noting that menopause typically starts between age 45 and 60. If women start hormones within in a few years of menopause or even a few years before, he says there are numerous benefits beyond controlling hot flashes. These benefits include reduced risk of bone fractures, reduced risk of diabetes and for many women, an overall boost in their quality of life &mdash; meaning better sleep, maintenance of libido and more comfortable sex.</p><p>&quot;In my opinion, the best recommendation would be for some form of hormone therapy,&quot; says Utian.</p><p>But here&#39;s the worry. Studies do confirm an increased risk of breast cancer among women taking hormones, regardless of age. Manson says any risk is worrisome, but it&#39;s important to put this risk in perspective and understand that it is actually small.</p><p>&quot;For every 1,000 women per year not using hormone therapy about 3 would develop breast cancer,&quot; Manson says. &quot;And among every 1,000 women using hormone therapy about 4 of them would develop breast cancer, so that&#39;s about 1 extra case of breast cancer per 1,000 women per year on hormone therapy.&quot;</p><p>This is where things get tricky. There is no consensus in the medical community on whether the symptom relief is worth the extra risk. Different doctors interpret risk differently. And if you&#39;re a breast oncologist like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.labiomed.org/researchers/rowan-t-chlebowski-md-phd">Dr. Rowan Chlebowski</a>&nbsp;at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, any risk is too much.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a disease that I see every day,&quot; Chlebowsi says. &quot;So I think that&#39;s something to be avoided.&quot;</p><p>Chlebowski a<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/09/454710392/hormones-may-help-younger-women-with-menopause-symptoms?ft=nprml&amp;f=454710392#_msocom_1" name="_msoanchor_1" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(71, 116, 204); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; text-decoration: none;"></a>dds that hormone therapy also makes it more difficult to read mammograms, since hormones make the breast denser. If mammograms are more difficult to read, it&#39;s harder to diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stage when it&#39;s most treatable.</p><p>So bottom line &mdash; this really&nbsp;is&nbsp;an individual decision between a woman and her doctor, a decision based on how much risk a woman can tolerate in favor of symptom control and other potential benefits. Researcher Joann Manson says if a woman chooses hormone therapy, then the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time is probably safe for most women.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/09/454710392/hormones-may-help-younger-women-with-menopause-symptoms?ft=nprml&amp;f=454710392" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hormones-may-help-younger-women-menopause-symptoms-113713 Sharp rise in black women's breast cancer rate http://www.wbez.org/news/black-womens-breast-cancer-risk-rises-match-white-womens-113565 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/breast-cancer_custom-cc9abf970b967f9332909f0b526dafb8a5d6c718-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res452832983" previewtitle="For decades, black women faced lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer than did white women."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="For decades, black women faced lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer than did white women." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/29/breast-cancer_custom-cc9abf970b967f9332909f0b526dafb8a5d6c718-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="For decades, black women faced lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer than did white women. (ColorBlind Images/Blend Image)" /></div><div><div><p>For decades, African-American women have been less likely to get breast cancer than white women, but that health advantage has now all but disappeared.</p></div></div></div><p>&quot;For a while we&#39;ve seen the increase in black women and stable rates in white women,&quot; says Carol DeSantis, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society who led the study. &quot;Even though we&#39;d seen the trend,&quot; she says, &quot;it&#39;s sort of shocking.&quot;</p><div id="res452824661"><div id="responsive-embed-breast-cancer-20151028"><iframe frameborder="0" height="571px" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/breast-cancer-20151028/child.html?initialWidth=775&amp;childId=responsive-embed-breast-cancer-20151028&amp;parentUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fsections%2Fhealth-shots%2F2015%2F10%2F29%2F452650557%2Fblack-womens-breast-cancer-risk-rises-to-equal-white-womens%3Fft%3Dnprml%26f%3D452650557" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;" width="100%"></iframe></div></div><p>African-American women&#39;s risk increased by 0.4 percent a year from 2008 through 2012, a much sharper increase than in earlier years. Overall, 124.3 black women per 100,000 were diagnosed with breast cancer in those years, compared to 128.1 for white women.</p><p>Black women have the highest death rates from breast cancer, at 31.0 per 100,000 compared to 21.9 per 100,00. They tend to be diagnosed later, when cancers are more likely to have spread.</p><p>The number African-American women diagnosed with estrogen-positive breast cancer has been on the rise, and DeSantis says that may be due to rising obesity rates.</p><p>In 2012, 58 percent of black women were obese, compared to 33 percent of white women. More fat increases estrogen levels in the body, which is a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000913.htm">risk factor</a>&nbsp;for some forms of breast cancer.</p><p>Other risk factors are probably involved, DeSantis says, but &quot;I really don&#39;t know if there are changes in black women more than in white women &mdash; having fewer children, having them later in life. I&#39;d like to look into it some more. There may be other risk factors changing as well.&quot;</p><p>Women of all races should be aware of breast cancer risk factors, DeSantis says. &quot;Maintain a healthy body weight, be physically active and limit your intake of alcohol.&quot; She also notes that mammograms remain the best tool for catching breast cancer early, when it&#39;s more easily treated.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21320/abstract">results</a>&nbsp;were published Thursday in&nbsp;CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. They&#39;re based on data from the National Cancer Institute&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://seer.cancer.gov/">SEER program</a>, which has been collecting information on cancer patients since 1973.</p><p>The breast cancer rates for African-American women were actually higher than for white women in seven states: Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee. They were lower in 11 states and the District of Columbia.</p><p>Breast cancer incidence also increased slightly for Asian and Pacific Islander women, but their rates are still much lower than those for white and African-American women, at 88.3 per 100,000. Hispanics also have lower rates, at 91.9 per 100,000.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/29/452650557/black-womens-breast-cancer-risk-rises-to-equal-white-womens?ft=nprml&amp;f=452650557" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/black-womens-breast-cancer-risk-rises-match-white-womens-113565 OK, when am I supposed to get a mammogram? http://www.wbez.org/news/ok-when-am-i-supposed-get-mammogram-113438 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/mammogram_2_custom-2314146195b43677bc1433a823f2a3368ab750ba-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res450315289" previewtitle="Now? Later? It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Now? Later? It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/20/mammogram_2_custom-2314146195b43677bc1433a823f2a3368ab750ba-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Now? Later? It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><div><p>If you&#39;re confused about when to start getting mammograms and how often you should be getting them, you&#39;re not alone. The very organizations that are responsible for telling us when and how often to get those screenings don&#39;t agree.</p></div></div></div><p>More than half of women 40 and older think they should be getting a mammogram every year, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/28/434292252/poll-finds-most-women-believe-mammograms-should-be-done-annually">recent NPR-Truven Health Analytics poll</a>. That&#39;s&nbsp;despite&nbsp;the fact that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends getting one only every other year &mdash; and only after women turn 50.</p><p>On Tuesday, the American Cancer Society updated its own&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/20/449920789/cancer-group-now-says-most-mammograms-can-wait-till-45">guidelines</a>. And though they&#39;ve moved closer to the Task Force recommendation, they still differ.</p><div id="res450316606"><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>If the major organizations that give mammography recommendations can&#39;t get on the same page, it&#39;s not hard to see why women are confused, too.</p><p>There are reasons for those differences, of course. Science is imperfect, and scientists can come to different conclusions when looking at the same data. And the guidelines reveal a fundamental disagreement over cancer screening. One side says it&#39;s worth subjecting some healthy women to what may end up being unnecessary procedures in order to catch every possible cancer, while the other side says that the harm of overtreatment needs to be considered, too.</p><p>So here&#39;s where four major organizations stand on mammography. It&#39;s not the clear guidance that women would hope for, but it&#39;s what we have now.</p><p><strong>When should I start getting mammograms?</strong></p><ul><li>American College of Radiology: 40 years old</li><li>American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: 40 years old</li><li>American Cancer Society: 45 years old</li><li>U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: 50 years old; any decision to start screenings before 50 should be an individual one and take into account the patient&#39;s values regarding benefits and harms</li></ul><p><strong>How often should I get one?</strong></p><ul><li>American College of Radiology: Every year</li><li>American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Every one to two years through 49, then annually for 50 and older</li><li>American Cancer Society: Annual through 54; at 55, begin getting them every other year</li><li>U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Every other year</li></ul><p><strong>When should I stop?</strong></p><ul><li>American College of Radiology: When life expectancy is less than seven years or when the woman would not act on an abnormal result of a screening due to age or comorbid conditions</li><li>American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: No end date, but women 75 and older should consult with providers on whether to continue</li><li>American Cancer Society: No end date if woman is in good health and life expectancy of at least 10 years</li><li>U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: 75 years old</li></ul><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/20/450259578/ok-when-am-i-supposed-to-get-a-mammogram" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ok-when-am-i-supposed-get-mammogram-113438 American Cancer Society issues new mammogram guidelines http://www.wbez.org/news/cancer-group-now-says-mammograms-can-wait-till-45-113422 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/mammogram-1-32cbc3bf48a1098684b6e6cf94663d9b3667b257-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res450236629" previewtitle="The American Cancer Society has pushed back the age at which most women should begin having mammograms to 45."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The American Cancer Society has pushed back the age at which most women should begin having mammograms to 45." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/20/mammogram-1-32cbc3bf48a1098684b6e6cf94663d9b3667b257-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="The American Cancer Society has pushed back the age at which most women should begin having mammograms to 45. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><div><p>Most women don&#39;t need to start getting an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer until they turn 45, according to the latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society.</p></div></div></div><p>Previously, the society recommended women start annual mammograms at 40 and continue every year for as long they remained in good health.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2463262">new recommendations</a>&nbsp;also say women can cut mammograms back to every two years once they turn 55 &mdash; if they have an average risk for breast cancer. These women can continue that routine as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of at least 10 years.</p><p>The guidelines &quot;can result in a dramatic reduction&quot; in the risk of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast">breast cancer</a>, says&nbsp;<a href="http://pressroom.cancer.org/index.php?s=20&amp;item=167&amp;_ga=1.104121734.788160311.1445274204">Richard Wender</a>, the society&#39;s chief cancer control officer. He says that&#39;s because they focus on screening women who are most likely to benefit.</p><p>A review of the most recent research necessitated the change, Wender says.</p><p>Those data indicate that earlier and more frequent mammograms unnecessarily subject women to the downsides of mammography &mdash; including the false alarms that can result in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/15/448888415/called-back-after-a-mammogram-doctors-are-trying-to-make-it-less-scary">women being called back for more tests</a>.</p><p>The other major change in the society&#39;s guidelines: Doctors are no longer being advised to start breast exams annually at age 40.</p><p>That recommendation is based on evidence that these exams provide little benefit and that a doctor&#39;s time could be better used for other things, such as discussing ways women can reduce their risk for breast cancer, the society says.</p><p>&quot;This is a far more tailored guideline than has ever been published before for breast cancer,&quot; Wender says, because it &quot;essentially draws a road map of how a woman should think about screening through her lifetime.&quot;</p><p>The changes are published in&nbsp;<em>JAMA</em>, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and represent the first revision of the group&#39;s guidelines since 2003.</p><p>For years, the society advised women that getting an annual&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mammography.html">mammogram</a>, starting at 40, was the most important step they could take to protect themselves from dying from the disease. Many experts said the breast X-rays could catch cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage.</p><p>But in 2009, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/">U.S. Preventive Services Task Force</a>&nbsp;challenged that recommendation. The highly influential group suggested many women could wait until turning 50 before starting regular mammograms, and then could get one every other year.</p><p>The USPSTF said that routinely screening women in their 40s subjected many to unnecessary false alarms and treatment. Unneeded biopsies could lead to avoidable radiation, chemotherapy and even surgery, which might include lumpectomies to remove tumors or abnormal cells that would never become life-threatening. Some women even undergo unnecessary mastectomies.</p><p>The 2009 recommendation triggered one of the most intense debates ever in women&#39;s health, in part because the cancer society, until now, continued to back annual screening beginning at age 40.</p><p>Wender says more evidence about the benefits and potential downsides of screening have emerged since then.</p><p>&quot;Today, screening guidelines are expected to judge the balance between benefits and harms,&quot; he says. &quot;And that was actually not a standard approach in 2003, which was a time when virtually all of the emphasis was only on the potential benefits of screening.&quot;</p><p>Wender stressed that the society isn&#39;t recommending against women getting mammograms every year when they turn 40 if they decide that is their preference after discussing the pros and cons with their doctor.</p><p>In fact, some women should begin screening earlier if they are increased risk for breast cancer for some reason, such as a family history of the disease, Wender says.</p><p>&quot;The new guideline does recommend that women ages 40 to 44 should have the opportunity to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of screening and begin annual mammography before ages 45 based on her personal values and preferences,&quot; Wender says.</p><p>Many experts think the new guidelines are an improvement and could help resolve confusion over mammography.</p><p>&quot;There really is not a single answer to the question: Should I have a mammogram?&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/faculty/core/nancy-keating-md-mph">Nancy Keating</a>, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a physician at the Brigham &amp; Women&#39;s Hospital.</p><p>&quot;It really involves looking at each patient individually,&quot; she says, &quot;thinking about their risk of developing breast cancer and thinking about the harms.&quot; She co-authored an&nbsp;<a href="http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jama.2015.13086">editorial</a>&nbsp;published with the new guidelines.</p><p>But it doesn&#39;t look like the new guidelines will end the debate.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.acr.org/">American College of Radiology</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sbi-online.org/">Society of Breast Imaging</a>, for example, still recommend annual mammography beginning at age 40. Later, less frequent screening could be risky, they say.</p><p>&quot;I am personally concerned as a woman and as a person heavily involved in breast cancer screening [that] there will be lives that we could save that will be lost,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sw.org/Dr-Debra-L-Monticciolo">Dr. Debra Monticciolo</a>, a professor of radiology at Texas A&amp;M Health Science Center College of Medicine. She chairs the radiology college&#39;s commission on breast imaging.</p><p>Yet others think the cancer society is still pushing mammograms too hard.</p><p>&quot;No matter how they try to slice and dice it, the reality is that mammography screening has minimal benefit and it has significant cost &mdash; both physical harm and economic cost,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org/about-nbcc/leadership/frances-m-visco.html">Frances Visco</a>&nbsp;of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.</p><p>&quot;I think all the American Cancer Society has done is really add to the confusion without helping women make an informed decision,&quot; she says.</p><p>The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementDraft/breast-cancer-screening1">released</a>&nbsp;a draft update of its guidelines that essentially reaffirms its 2009 recommendations. But the group will examine the cancer society&#39;s new guidelines and the research supporting them as it finalizes the guidelines, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Biography/David-Grossman">Dr. avid Grossman</a>&nbsp;of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, the task force vice chairman.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/20/449920789/cancer-group-now-says-most-mammograms-can-wait-till-45?ft=nprml&amp;f=449920789" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 10:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cancer-group-now-says-mammograms-can-wait-till-45-113422 Latina lesbians facing terminal illness celebrate life, love in wedding http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latina-lesbians-facing-terminal-illness-celebrate-life-love-wedding-110272 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/wedding_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was about 30 minutes before Carol Boyd was going to tie the knot Sunday. She was upstairs at the Chicago Urban Arts Society in Pilsen, touching up her makeup, while her two daughters fluffed up the skirt on her wedding dress.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you,&rdquo; she told them. &ldquo; My daughters are giving me away, I&rsquo;m like the proudest mom on earth.&rdquo;</p><p>She took photos, then headed downstairs with her daughters and friends running lookout. She was trying to avoid even the briefest glimpse of her bride-to-be. The couple wanted to honor the traditional custom and be surprised.</p><p>&ldquo;Now we get to take exactly what everybody else gets to take, a marriage certificate, a marriage license,&rdquo; Carol said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m excited, I&rsquo;m happy, and I&rsquo;m proud to be able to do this today and make history.&rdquo;</p><p>In a hallway off to the side of the reception area, her future bride, Mae Yee, was pacing. She has a shaved head, and was sporting a white brocaded vest and a red bow tie.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a little nervous,&rdquo; Mae said, laughing. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m getting married for the first time for real, I mean &lsquo;real&rsquo; real, this is like federal real.&rdquo;</p><p>They were about to join three other lesbian couples in a ceremony called &ldquo;A Big Queer Latina Wedding.&rdquo;&nbsp; They were among dozens of couples -- gay, lesbian and straight -- who took part in various mass weddings across Chicago to celebrate June 1, the first day same-sex marriages became legal in Illinois.</p><p>May and Carol Yee both hope the state&rsquo;s new same-sex marriage law leads to greater mainstream acceptance, but their particular wedding vows go even deeper than that.</p><p>Carol&rsquo;s a colon cancer survivor, and Mae has stage IV breast cancer. She&rsquo;s going to chemo every 21 days, hoping to prolong their life together as much as possible.</p><p>Mae said marriage means she can take care of her family financially, even if she&rsquo;s not here anymore.</p><p>&ldquo;I get sick, I can say, &lsquo;This is my wife, and these are my kids, and please let them in,&rsquo; and they have to abide by that, so I&rsquo;m very, very happy about that.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my goodness, today is amazing, &ldquo; said Jessica Carillo, who organized the Latina event, which was sponsored by United Latino Pride and Lambda Legal. &ldquo;Today is a day closer to sort of being seen more equal in the eyes of our families, in the eyes of our community. For Latinos, marriage is a huge milestone. Marriage is, sort of what you&rsquo;re meant to do, to build a family.&rdquo;</p><p>Carillo said many Latinos face the twin challenges of Catholicism prohibiting same-sex marriage, and having parents who grew up in another country.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re bringing the ideas from back home, they&rsquo;re bringing whatever those biases in the way they grew up,&rdquo; Carillo says, adding the younger generation is growing up here with new ideas. &ldquo;And so when you mix those two things, there&rsquo;s a clash.&rdquo;</p><p>Carillo said she hopes same-sex marriage becoming legal will lead to more acceptance by Latinos and society.</p><p>But even though this was a day of celebration for LGBT people across the state, Evette Cardona said there&rsquo;s work to be done. She co-founded Amigas Latinas, an organization that seeks to empower and educate LGBT Latinas, with her wife, the city&rsquo;s Human Relations Commissioner, Mona Noriega.</p><p>&ldquo;While today we celebrate these four couples, tomorrow there&rsquo;s 10 times the number of families that won&rsquo;t accept their lesbian daughters,&rdquo; Cardona says. &ldquo;In the communities of color, if you are rejected by your family, and you also experience rejection by the mainstream community, where do you turn?&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, the parents of one of the brides, Juanita Gonzalez, didn&rsquo;t attend the wedding. But she found support in her aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as the family she&rsquo;s formed with her wife, Janet Cecil. Janet has two daughters, and a granddaughter, and they all stood by as the couple spoke their vows and exchanged rings.</p><p>When Juanita broke down midway through, one of Janet&rsquo;s daughters reached out to pat her back, and her little granddaughter did the same.</p><p>The couple, grandmothers now, were best friends in high school. Juanita says she knew she loved Janet at 16. But Janet thought it was wrong for her to feel this way about a woman. They moved in other directions, but said they kept finding their way back to each other, until they finally became a couple. Janet&rsquo;s friends and family&rsquo;s reaction? Essentially, &lsquo;Finally.&rsquo;</p><p>Like the other couples, Carol and Mae Yee shared their vows with laughter and tears, the promises to care for each other in sickness and health, deep with meaning.</p><p>&ldquo;...I vow to love you with every being, even after my last breath,&rdquo; Mae said. &ldquo;I promise to cherish each moment God has given us together for the rest of our lives &hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I love you whether you&rsquo;re fat or fit, and when you&rsquo;re hurt, and when you&rsquo;re sick&hellip;&rdquo; Carol vowed.</p><p>The couple runs a charity together in their spare time called Humble Hearts, providing the homeless with food, clothing and furniture.</p><p>Carol said that didn&rsquo;t leave much for a fancy wedding with a reception, so she was grateful for the all-volunteer event in Pilsen, which was free for everyone attending.</p><p>Before the ceremony, a tearful Carol said of her bride, Mae: &ldquo;She&rsquo;s here today to live long enough to actually be married. It&rsquo;s my gift to her, it&rsquo;s me committing to her for better or worse, sickness and health. She&rsquo;s got a lot of sickness right now, but I&rsquo;m not going anywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>On this, their wedding day, there was no sickness in sight, only joy.</p><p>When the music started, they jumped out onto the dance floor with the three other newly married couples. And their first dance?</p><p>The song made famous by Etta James, &ldquo;At Last.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporting covering religion and culture.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 07:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latina-lesbians-facing-terminal-illness-celebrate-life-love-wedding-110272 Morning Shift: Ready for the Ventra switch? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-08/morning-shift-ready-ventra-switch-108867 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Ventra flickr-cta web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We talk about the ups and downs of the CTA&#39;s transition to Ventra, hear from Michael Puente about the proposed Illiana expressway, and talk with a breast cancer advocacy group on how we can be smart contributors this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Photo: Flickr/Steven Vance)</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-ventra-cards-are-here-to-stay/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-ventra-cards-are-here-to-stay.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-ventra-cards-are-here-to-stay" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Ready for the Ventra switch?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 08 Oct 2013 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-08/morning-shift-ready-ventra-switch-108867 Chicago filmmaker and BRCA-positive woman celebrates liberation of her genes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-filmmaker-and-brca-positive-woman-celebrates-liberation-her-genes-107722 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/BRCA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Joanna Rudnik&rsquo;s mother was in her early 40s when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Fearing a similar fate, the Chicago filmmaker decided to document her family&rsquo;s history&mdash;and her own predisposition&mdash;in the 2008 film, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily" target="_blank"><em>In the Family</em></a>.</p><p>She was single and just 27 years old when she tested positive for a mutation of the so-called breast cancer gene. But Rudnick desperately wanted children. She wasn&rsquo;t ready to lose her ovaries to lower her risk of cancer.</p><p>She then had to decide between surveillance and surgery.</p><p>But at least she had a choice.</p><p>Not many women get that choice. Because not many women have access to the information she had; to know that they are possibly living with a ticking time bomb inside of them.</p><p>Those who test positive for BRCA mutations have up to an 85 to 90 percent lifetime chance of developing breast cancer. And up to a 50 to 60 percent life chance of developing ovarian cancer.</p><p>Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade directs the Cancer Risk Clinic at the University of Chicago. She said many family members live under a cloud of fear.</p><p>Olopade&rsquo;s been working for more than nearly two decades to open up genetic testing to all women.</p><p>&ldquo;I spent my time as a cancer geneticist and expert in cancer-risk assessment actually calling insurance companies to advocate that women would benefit from the test and they should cover it. Sometimes when it&rsquo;s denied, then the women can&rsquo;t afford it, then they just don&rsquo;t take the test,&rdquo; Olopade explained.</p><p>See, many uninsured or underinsured women couldn&rsquo;t afford the test. And really, most third-party payers didn&rsquo;t want to cover the BRCAnalysis test. Because it generally cost over $3,000.</p><p>The reason? There&rsquo;s just one test. A Salt Lake City-based biotech company called Myriad Genetics had a monopoly. They obtained patents on the two genes back in the 1990s, eliminating any chance of market competition.&nbsp;</p><p>Near the end of filming, Rudnik went to Myriad&rsquo;s offices to confront them. She met with the founder and Chief Scientific Officer Mark Skolnick. He said the bottom line is that women were getting tested&mdash;in fact, he claimed she would not have been tested were it not for Myriad. And that doctors were &ldquo;not prepared to do this.&rdquo; He claimed that Myriad has addressed every problem that came up and solved it because they had a commercial interest.</p><p>The Supreme Court ruled that Myriad&rsquo;s interests did not give them the right to patent parts of naturally-occurring genes. The unanimous decision came at an especially significant time for Rudnick.</p><p>Thursday was her 39th birthday.</p><p>In December, Rudnick was diagnosed with breast cancer&mdash;just a few months after giving birth to her second daughter. She just finished chemo and recently underwent a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy.</p><p>&ldquo;I just want better choices for my daughters&mdash;because I don&rsquo;t want my daughters to go through what I went through and I want them to have better options&rdquo; Rudnick said.</p><p>Soon after the Supreme Court delivered its decision, several labs announced plans to offer genetic testing. One lab, DNATraits, said it planned to offer the BRCA test in the U.S. for $995&mdash;that&rsquo;s less than a third of the current price.</p><p>Rudnick called the court&rsquo;s decision an absolute victory. But she believes it needs to be taken a step further. Now that women&rsquo;s genes have been reclaimed, she says it&rsquo;s time to collect the data Myriad compiled&mdash;so that better, cheaper tests and treatments can be developed.</p><p>In Honor of the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision, PBS has posted Rudnick&rsquo;s film, In the Family, on its website. It can be <a href="http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily/full.php#.UbuX6b-R98E" target="_blank">viewed online</a>, free of charge.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-filmmaker-and-brca-positive-woman-celebrates-liberation-her-genes-107722 Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, message to women http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-05/angelina-jolies-double-mastectomy-message-women-107146 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Angelina+Jolie+Women+World+Summit+2013+YU0jH7mzUNax-e1365152773248.jpg" title="Angelina Jolie attends the Women in the World Summit in New York on April 4, 2013. (Reuters) " /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><a href="http://www.nbcwashington.com/entertainment/celebrity/Angelina_Jolie_Voted_Most_Beautiful_Woman_World.html" target="_blank">Angelina Jolie</a>&nbsp;may be one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen. In real life, she seems almost too perfect: an alien-like presence of unattainable sexuality (ask any geekboy who first ogled her curves in <em>Lara Croft Tomb Raider</em>) whom many women have been <a href="http://halloftheblackdragon.com/reel/women-hate-angelina-jolie-so-we-love-her/" target="_blank">quick to hate</a> despite her outstanding work as a <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/11/world/meast/syria-civil-war" target="_blank">UN Ambassador</a> and comittment to feminist causes around the world.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Perhaps this idea of Jolie as an aloof ice-princess being <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2324149/Angelina-Jolie-reveals-double-mastectomy-learning-87-risk-breast-cancer.html?ito=feeds-newsxml" target="_blank">shattered overnight</a> is why her recent reveal of a double mastectomy feels all the more inspiring and important. She had her storied breasts removed, and she wants other women to know that it&#39;s okay to do the same.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice.html?_r=2&amp;" target="_blank">powerful op-ed</a>&nbsp;for the <em>New York Times,&nbsp;</em>Jolie describes how she recently underwent surgery to combat a &quot;faulty gene&quot; that predisposed her to breast and ovarian cancer:&nbsp;</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of ovarian cancer,&quot; Jolie writes, &quot;Once I knew this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is much higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery more complex.&quot;</div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">Jolie&#39;s decision was no doubt a difficult one, but the op-ed does not read &quot;woe is me&quot; or at all. In fact, Jolie&#39;s purpose for writing the piece is clear: she wants women in a similar situation to be informed about their options and unafraid to take drastic action if need be.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, Jolie is ridiculously wealthy and can afford the best healthcare imaginable. But rather than glossing over this privilege as if it doesn&#39;t exist, she makes a point of admitting that &quot;the cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.&quot;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Moreover, being rich and famous does not exclude her from the same horrible disease that <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20010082,00.html" target="_blank">took her own mother&#39;s life</a>&nbsp;(ovarian cancer) and the lives of myriads more who will never have their names in the papers. Jolie also points out that breast cancer alone kills <a href="http://www.komennyc.org/site/DocServer/Global_Breast_and_Cancer_Facts-_6-30-10.pdf?docID=3881" target="_blank">458,000 people</a> each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low and middle-income countries.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Then Jolie addresses the big elephant in the room: does she feel like less of a <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/celebrities/free/20130118angelina-jolie-sex-symbol.html" target="_blank">sex symbol</a> now that her famous breasts have been removed? Absolutely not, she says:</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;On a personal note, I don&#39;t feel like any less of a woman [for having this surgery]. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.&quot;</div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">So whether you like Jolie or not, as an actress or as a human being you&#39;ve only seen in movies and read about in gossip rags, at least she is strong enough to tell you that her womanhood is not defined by her outward appearance. I admire her for this message, as a woman&#39;s decision to remove her breasts and ovaries&mdash;which many believe to be the very essence of their sexuality&mdash;is often one of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drlauraberman.com/sexual-health/your-body/double-mastectomy" target="_blank">hardest choices</a>&nbsp;that she will ever have to make.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Still, <em>choice</em> is the most important word here. The title of Jolie&#39;s op-ed is &quot;My Medical Choice,&quot; implying that other women should also feel just as free to make their own decisions in regards to their personal health and wellbeing.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recent studies have shown that most women who undergo double mastectomies <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127190018.htm" target="_blank">don&#39;t really need them</a>. However,&nbsp;shouldn&#39;t the woman be the one to decide, especially if she feels that the risk of succumbing to the same fate as her family members or leaving her children motherless is ultimately too great of a risk to take?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In the end, Jolie is grateful that she can tell children, in all confidence, that &quot;they don&#39;t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.&quot; And for many women, that is more than enough reason to part with their breasts and still be as beautiful, feminine and unbreakable in their inherent womanhood as ever.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Note: Chicago&#39;s own <a href="http://kartemquin.com" target="_blank">Kartemquin Films</a>&nbsp;produced an amazing Emmy-nominated documentary on this topic, <em><a href="http://inthefamily.kartemquin.com/content/watch-family-free-online" target="_blank">In the Family</a>, </em>that&nbsp;will stream online at <a href="http://www.pbs.org/pov/inthefamily/" target="_blank">PBS.org</a>&nbsp;for an extra two weeks in light of Ms. Jolie&#39;s announcement.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><em>Leah writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 14 May 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-05/angelina-jolies-double-mastectomy-message-women-107146