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Dr. Judy Garber On Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Decision

Dr. Judy Garber — director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — joined us for the final segment of our show today to talk about actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy.

Using Jolie’s case as a model, Dr. Garber discussed how women at high risk for breast or ovarian cancer need to weigh their own particular circumstances when deciding whether or not to proceed with a surgical option:

“DR. GARBER: It’s amazing how differently people cope with this knowledge, and when in their lives people want to take control of the situation and say, okay, this is what I have, this is what I’m going to do about it, or now is not the time. You can find out you have this gene at any point. If you’re 25, you want to have your children, you want to do things in your life, you may not have a partner yet, surgery may not be the way to go at that moment. Later in your life, different options suddenly become more reasonable. And Angelina was able to choose when she was going to be tested, and then what she was going to do, and we hope everybody should have that kind of access and that kind of power.”

Dr. Garber also spoke with host Tom Ashbrook about how the available options for surgery have changed over the past decades:

“DR. GARBER: The surgery has gotten better. It’s still major surgery, but women these days often keep the nipple, which gives them from the outside a much more natural appearance.

TOM: Angelina Jolie suggests in her essay that she did that.

DR. GARBER: Yes, I think that she worked hard to do that. I think that the materials that are used to substitute for the original breast tissue is more natural and has finally been proven to be safe. There are procedures where women can use their own tissue. It’s absolutely still a big deal, but I think at the end women hopefully will feel more beautiful, less mutilated. You know, this is something that people definitely have strong feelings about, but the surgery has improved. And not that we mean to push everyone to have surgery. But for those people who make that choice, it’s nice to have better options.”

You can listen here to our full segment with Dr. Garber:

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