Angelina Jolie is Brave, but Also Extremely Smart
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Angelina Jolie is Brave, but Also Extremely Smart

Hollywood super celebrity and one half of Hollywood super couple "Brangelina" has recently announced that she underwent a radical double mastectomy, as a preventative medical move aimed at preventing the development of breast cancer. The role of genetic testing has forever changed the landscape of cancer treatment, and prevention. While the results of these tests often requires great commitment, the benefits are often many.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past three days, you are familiar with the fact that Hollywood super celebrity, and one half of the Hollywood power couple "Bradgelina," has undergone a voluntary double mastectomy. Understanding what a double mastectomy entails, will no doubt draw a good deal of respect for Jolie, regardless of what your personal opinion of her may be. 

A double mastectomy is a complete removal of both the right, and the left breast, as well as all underlying breast tissue that rests on top of the chest cavity, and in the armpit. Mastectomies became a mainstream course of treatment for breast cancer beginning in the late 1930's, and gaining popularity in the medical field over the last eight decades. While the procedure has been popular for treatment purposes, it has only been in the last twenty years that mastectomy's have become an equally important form of prevention in oncology.

The progress made by genetic scientists beginning in the late eighties, and advancing into modern times, has introduced a plethora of preventative cancer screening techniques. Indeed, as cancers are the result of mutated genes, it is no surprise that the two fields of study are perfectly intertwined. 

In 1995, scientists with the National Institute of Health were studying genetics on a group of Jewish participants when they discovered a mutated gene that appeared to afflict approximately one percent of the female Jewish population. They named this mutated gene BRCA(pronounced B-rack-a). After months of further research, the scientists also discovered a further mutated gene, and the subsequent names of the genes were changed to BRCA1, and BRCA2. Scientists today, believe that there are possibly hundreds of associative cancer genes however, this major advancement in health sciences started a revolutionary screening process that acts as a predictor for breast cancers.

Genetic testing has been a major focus of oncological facilities worldwide since the late nineties. Pioneered by leading medical facilities like the Mayo Clinic, and Cancer Treatment Centers of America; BRCA1, and BRCA2 testing, has likely saved millions of lives since its use became mainstream. 

The simplicity of the test is the exact opposite of the choices that must be made following affirmation of the BRCA1, or BRCA2 gene. Jolie, and millions of other women worldwide are faced with a harsh reality upon the discovery of either BRCA mutation. In Jolie's case, her chances of developing breast cancer was increased by as much as 80% compared to other women. Jolie's own mother died of ovarian cancer at the young age of 56. These factors likely contributed to her decision to undergo a preventative Mastectomy, but likely made the decision no easier. 

Doctors still don't recommend genetic testing for every female, however, every woman should speak with her health care professional about genetic testing. Your medical provider will ask some simple questions, mainly about your personal health, and your family medical history. It is also important to understand that the removal of both breasts is a precaution, and not a cure. While Jolie, and many brave women like her have taken these courageous steps, they too can still fall victim to the wraths of cancer. While their future may be questionable, their bravery and perception are not.

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