Ovarian Cancer And Public Opinion

Help Prevent Ovarian Cancer



New York Times has gotten a very amazing response to its articles about Angelina Jolie and her decision to remove her ovaries, to prevent ovarian cancer, which of course was not an easy decision to make. The responses were so overwhelming supportive, that we MUST share them.

Letter 1 by Audra Moran from Washington

When Angelina Jolie Pitt first spoke out about having a mutation in her BRCA1 genes, the number of women who sought genetic testing more than doubled. She sparked conversations worldwide about the hereditary links between breast and ovarian cancer.

Most women don’t learn about ovarian cancer until they — or a loved one — receive a diagnosis. We are grateful to Ms. Jolie Pitt for sharing her personal story and encouraging women to learn their risk.

That said, we must caution women that there is still no early detection test for ovarian cancer. As Ms. Jolie Pitt notes, the blood test for CA-125 is sometimes paired with ultrasound to monitor women like her who have known genetic mutations. However, these tools have not proved effective in the general population and can occasionally lead to false alarms and potentially risky unnecessary surgery.

Our hope is that the second chapter of Ms. Jolie Pitt’s story will spur even more women to examine their family health history, speak with genetic counselors and get the facts about ovarian cancer.

Letter 2 by Vanessa Sperber from  Valley Stream, N.Y.

I applaud Angelina Jolie Pitt for being so open about her diagnosis and surgery, and I am happy that she is recovering and is cancer-free. But while her heart is certainly in the right place in urging all women to be tested and treated as needed, I wonder if she realizes how fortunate she is, and how cost can be a barrier to testing and treatment for some women.

I recently had a routine mammogram, which, under the Affordable Care Act, is fully covered by insurance without even a co-payment. However, when an abnormal reading called for further testing, I discovered that the cost of several hundred dollars was not covered by my private insurance. Fortunately, I was able to afford the test, and, more fortunately, everything was fine.

But I question how many women can afford to have the tests that Ms. Jolie Pitt had, and how many would be in a position to pay for preventive surgery, which almost certainly would not be covered by insurance. To paraphrase the article’s last line, money and good insurance are power.

Letter 3 by Paula Amato from Portland, Ore.

I thank Angelina Jolie Pitt for sharing her personal story and for helping to educate women about BRCA and the options for cancer risk reduction. Readers should be aware that another option for fertility preservation is egg and/or embryo freezing before removal of the ovaries.

Oncologists and reproductive endocrinologists have worked successfully in recent years to raise awareness of this option with patients, particularly as egg-freezing technology has improved. In addition, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis can be done on the embryos to select those that do not carry the BRCA mutation, reducing the risk of cancer in future children.

While assisted reproductive technology procedures are expensive, they are occasionally covered by insurance. Financial assistance may also be available to patients who qualify through nonprofit organizations such as Fertile Hope.

Final Letter by Janet Isquith from Brooklyn

As an ovarian cancer survivor of 12 years, I commend Angelina Jolie Pitt on her direct, simple, human and, most of all, informative Op-Ed essay. Ms. Jolie Pitt mentioned the CA125 blood test, which, as she acknowledges, is not a good predictor for ovarian cancer.

For almost five months I went through five doctors, all of whom took blood for the CA-125 test because I complained about severe pain in one of my ovaries. The doctors all refused to remove the ovary because my score on the test was very low.

I finally found a surgeon who agreed to remove the ovary since I was in pain, although he, like all the other doctors, said the odds of cancer were less than 1 percent. A quick surgery became a long one, as I had ovarian cancer. I suggest that women listen to their own bodies as I did.

Source: New York Times