Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cheating Death?

If you watch or read the news, you probably heard that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy a few months back.  She didn't have breast cancer, but she found out through genetic testing that she carried a gene BRCA1, that increased the likelihood that she would have breast cancer at some point in her life.  Here is a link to Jolie's Op-Ed.

If we're lucky, we get to go to the doctor and have our annual exam where we are screened for breast cancer, ovarian cancer and our blood is usually drawn to check our cholesterol or thyroid levels.  I'm not going to say I look forward to these exams, but after I go through it, I'm glad I did.  It's one less thing to worry about and I feel like I'm being proactive about my health.

But, and there's always a but, I don't ever want to look into the crystal ball of genetic testing.  I view it this way, we're all going to die of something.  And I personally think it adds a lot of stress to our already stressful lives to know if we have a predisposition to a certain disease or ailment.  I think it's better to do the things you know you're supposed to do to keep healthy as long as you can.  You know, eat right, exercise, drink lots of water, don't smoke, that kind of thing. Why open up Pandora's Box?

Plus, I don't imagine that insurance companies are going to cover this sort of testing, nor will they foot the bill for a preventative procedure.  They don't do much, if any, of that now.  So, who gets to do this type of thing?  You guessed it, the people that have the money to do so.  The uninsured and the poor peeps just have to live and die with the genetic cards they've been dealt.

So what do you think of genetic testing?  Do you think it's somewhat frivolous to opt for a double mastectomy when cancer isn't present?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

12 comments:

  1. I don't know as though I'd do anything so radical. As for genetic testing, what good is it to know you may get some disease unless there's something you can do about it?

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I was afraid there would be silence on this post.

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  2. My closest childhood friend of over 45 years did the same thing as Angelina about 10 years ago. She had cancer in one breast twice then had the other healthy breast removed when she found out she had the gene. At the time she was in her mid thirties. I thought it was a brave and smart thing to do and totally supported her. But like many things it's really hard to put yourself in another's place these types of decisions about ones body are so very personal.

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    1. Since your friend had cancer in one breast, did that influence her more than the genetic test? Or did the test convince her?

      Yes, it is very difficult to put ourselves in another person's shoes.

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  3. If I had a family history of breast cancer, I'd want to know if I had the gene. And then...I don't know what. I like the idea of taking much of the worry out of the equation, but it is radical surgery with its own risks. I suppose if I could afford the best medical care in the world, like Angelina, my choice would be a bit easier...? Maybe not, though.

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    1. I did a little bit of research on this test, and only one facility performs it because of a patent. That's why it is somewhat pricey. Our healthcare systems is so messed up.

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  4. You do not want insurance companies to pay for this test or make it mandatory. Can you imagine how many people will have denied coverage? Right now anyone can buy critical illness insurance, one lump sum payment in case you're diagnosed. But if they know you are most likely to to be sick - automatically you are uninsured.

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    1. I know. I had two miscarriages and I couldn't get covered for prenatal care through my healthcare provider because of that. So, I had to pay cash for my son's prenatal visits and birth. It's ridiculous. What is the point of insurance?

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  5. This is where my politics and ethics clash hard. I wouldn't do it. Or at least I don't think I would. I think we play G-d way too much with medicine these days. Then again, did G-d let us create modern day medicine for that purpose? I can help but wonder if we're given these genes for a reason. Nature put things a certain way for a purpose. Humans destroy survival of the fittest and that is what this is, it's surviving when you are not the fittest. Is that wrong? I don't know. I don't know if it's my place to judge, especially if you see my pill case right now. I wouldn't want to know if I had a certain gene because I think nature is supposed to be a bit mysterious. I don't think I should know those things just like I don't think I should know whether I'll have a boy or a girl whenever I become pregnant until the baby is born. Plus, removing your breasts does not guarantee health. Perhaps it is like they say in "Once Upon a Time" about magic. Everything comes with a price. Ward off the breast cancer and diabetes will hit you instead. Maybe I have too strong a belief in letting things be the way they were "meant" to be, nature, and fate. It definitely has caused many a crisis in my brain (no dual meaning intended).

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    1. I agree with you. I think we should let life unfold and do our best with what presents itself. But, I don't look down upon anyone who chooses to look into their genes. I just know this isn't for me. We all have to make our own choices and live with them.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!