Doctors respond to Angelina Jolie's breast cancer media bombshell

In a New York Times contributed op-ed that went viral yesterday, actress Angelina Jolie explained her decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy to significantly reduce her risk of inherited breast cancer, which her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, died of at age 56.

Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, spoke to Kaiser Health News about the genetic testing Jolie did before deciding to undergo the surgery. Not all women need it, Brawley noted, but all women should discuss it with their doctors.

"What it does mean is women should know their cancer family history and discuss it with their regular provider," Brawley said. "If appropriate, they should be referred to and have the opportunity to discuss their risk and their options with a genetic specialist."

Brawley also pointed out that insurance plans created before the Affordable Care Act aren't required to cover the costs of genetic counseling and testing, but plans established after the law was passed will cover it. There's no mandate for the coverage of surgery. Only a small amount of breast cancers are linked to genetic risk factors, he said, but it's important to know if one is at high risk.

Oncologists responded to Jolie's announcement, stating that they're pleased she received top-notch care at a breast center, specifically, in Jolie's case, Pink Lotus of Beverly Hills, Calif., MedPage Today reported. However, some doctors weren't pleased with the marketing Jolie provided for the center, the article stated.

"The choice that Angelina made was the right one for her," said Gary Lyman, M.D., of Duke Cancer Institute, in MedPage Today, "and will hopefully inspire other women to have these important discussions and feel empowered to make their own right choice."

To learn more:
- read the op-ed piece
- read the KHN post
- read the MedPage article

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