Angelina Jolie's decision last month to go public with her double mastectomy sparked a wide range of opinions and discussions on preventative measures to fight cancer, with many calling the actress's decision "brave." One of those to disagree with that word is Melissa Etheridge, who in a recent interview with the Washington Blade said she would not have taken such drastic measures.
"I have to say I feel a little differently," she said. "I have that gene mutation too, and it’s not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer."
As Jolie described in her NY Times op-ed, the decision to undergo a mastectomy was due in large part to family history and experiences helping others battle cancer. Only weeks after going public, her aunt passed away from breast cancer at age 61. Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, passed away in 2007 at age 56 after an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer. "There is no longevity on my mother's side of the family," Jolie said in a 2007 interview. "My grandmother also died young (age 45), so my mother always thought it could happen to her."
According to doctors, Jolie's cancer risk after her double mastectomy dropped from 87 percent to less than 5 percent. It's now widely expected that the 37-year-old will next pursue the removal of her ovaries with a procedure known as an oophorectomy.
Etheridge, however, believes people should not look at such numbers and immediately think surgery is the only preventative measure.
"My belief is that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not," she said. "Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything but it never comes to cancer so I would say to anybody faced with that, that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do and to really consider the advancements we’ve made in things like nutrition and stress levels."
In a 2001 interview with Access Hollywood Live, Etheridge blamed western diets for the rise in cancer rates.
“Our own western lifestyle is one of the reasons that half of us have cancer – because our western lifestyle is so acidic; the food we eat causes acid… the meats, the processed foods… and it’s really taxing us, and that’s why we’re seeing this epidemic.”
To be fair, Jolie acknowledged that her choice was her own and may be significantly different from what others decide. She also praises the "many wonderful holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery."
On Tuesday, Etheridge released a follow-up statement saying, "I don't have any opinion of what she 'should have' done. All are free to choose. I only objected to the term 'brave' describing it."
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