Many say Angelina Jolie’s actions were too extreme

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Turner said that although he anticipates an increase in requests for genetic testing, he does not foresee an increase in requests for mastectomies. “Based on statistics and tradition, I don’t see a lot of Black women stepping up and saying, ‘cut off my breasts.’”

Not only are individuals now talking about Jolie’s preventative measures, but also the genetic testing she underwent. The genetic test for breast cancer is a testing of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, according to the National Breast Cancer Institute (NBCI); they are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. A mutation of these two genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Having the mutated genes greatly increases one’s risk for the disease.

This is a test that’s expensive, not covered by most insurance companies and that most “everyday” people cannot afford. Turner said genetic testing is expensive and a fairly new process for insurance companies. He added that with a name like Jolie behind this, insurance companies might be forced to think about readily covering the test.

The NBCI states that along with prophylactic surgery, removing the at risk tissue to reduce the chances of developing cancer, when most people find they are positive for the mutated genes they use surveillance- using cancer screening measures, such as self examinations and mammograms; risk avoidance-avoiding certain risk behaviors associated with the development of the cancers; chemoprevention-use of a natural or synthetic substance, to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

Turner and Norrell both agree there are alternatives to the extreme measures that Jolie took to prevent or decrease the risk of one’s development of the disease.  Turner said they are early detection, getting regular exams and mammograms; decreasing the consumption of alcohol and smoking, which are factors that can increase one’s chances; and controlling one’s weight, because obesity increases one’s risk.

“We (as Black women) are always taking care of someone else,” Norrell said. “We need to take better care of ourselves,”

As survivor, Norrell said her “outlook is good. I hope I will remain cancer free and that I am able to (continue to) count the years in the survivor column.”

(For more information on genetic testing, visit http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/genetics/directory)

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