I was very distressed to learn last week that Angelina Jolie had decided to have a double mastectomy. Apparently she did this in hopes of reducing her risk of breast cancer. Now I hear that she is considering having her ovaries removed as well. She is being hailed as ‘courageous.’ Please understand that I am not here to comment on her decision. We live in a free country, and people have fought long and hard to ensure that we have freedom to choose (along with our doctor) the best health care models that we can afford. I am not second guessing her decision. What I am doing is pondering the question: When did our breasts/ovaries become our enemies? Why is fear of cancer leading women to take such drastic action?
Angelina is not the first celebrity, or even the first woman who has taken such proactive measures against the possibility of breast cancer. We hear via the media, that many women are seeking this BRCA gene test, and are presumably following Jolie and others down the path of self-mutilation. What I don’t see is men who may have the same BRCA gene mutation, going down to their physicians and asking to have their prostate and/or testicles removed. Prostate cancer is the #1 most common cancer in men, just as breast cancer is the #1 cancer for women. The same BRCA gene mutation is used as a diagnostic tool to help individuals understand their risks of these respective cancers. I posed the question to my husband yesterday: “If you tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, would you go to the doctor, and have your prostate removed?” He looked at me blankly, considered the question, and said he would seek a second opinion. READ– No way! Why is it that as a society, we think nothing of women having prophylactic breast removal or ovary removal, but find it unthinkable that men would have the same prophylactic surgery regarding their prostates……
Where is the common sense?
Someone at clinic asked me last week to explain the BRCA gene. In the first place, EVERYONE has the BRCA gene. So, what the labs are testing for, is not do you have the gene, but rather has the gene mutated. If the gene has mutated, then the risk of cancer is increased. What no one is saying is that genes or even mutated genes do not cause cancer. Lifestyle factors cause cancer. The top three causes of cancer are: smoking, poor nutrition, and obesity. All of these are lifestyle factors, and are preventable. And, I might add, without removing body parts.
No one is talking about epigenetics. In short, epigenetics theory is that lifestyle factors and environmental factors cause genes to manifest either their good or bad sides. ‘In 1986, for example, the Lancet published the first of two groundbreaking papers showing that if a pregnant woman ate poorly, her child would be at significantly higher than average risk for cardiovascular disease as an adult. Bygren wondered whether that effect could start even before pregnancy: Could parents’ experiences early in their lives somehow change the traits they passed to their offspring?’ (Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny)
Why is this factor being left out of the conversation? If I know that I have the opportunity, through my nutrition and changes in my environment to reduce my risk of cancer, I would not be operating out of fear, but rather of power. Not wanting to appear too basic, but what if we had a different conversation? What if, knowing I have the BRCA gene mutation, I take positive action (not going to the surgeon), but by becoming very proactive concerning my diet and my environment? An excerpt:
‘The funny thing is, scientists have known about epigenetic marks since at least the 1970s. But until the late ’90s, epigenetic phenomena were regarded as a sideshow to the main event, DNA. To be sure, epigenetic marks were always understood to be important: after all, a cell in your brain and a cell in your kidney contain the exact same DNA, and scientists have long known that nascent cells can differentiate only when crucial epigenetic processes turn on or turn off the right genes in utero.
More recently, however, researchers have begun to realize that epigenetics could also help explain certain scientific mysteries that traditional genetics never could: for instance, why one member of a pair of identical twins can develop bipolar disorder or asthma even though the other is fine. Or why autism strikes boys four times as often as girls. Or why extreme changes in diet over a short period in Norrbotten could lead to extreme changes in longevity. In these cases, the genes may be the same, but their patterns of expression have clearly been tweaked.’
As a holistic practitioner, it is my hope that people research all the options. Genes do have a say in how the body expresses itself; however, environment and diet also have a part to play in the quest for health. Operating out of fear leads to powerlessness, and victimization. What if we were truly courageous and changed what was making us sick. (environment and nutrition) Let’s stop the insanity of removing body parts, and go back to a ‘whole-istic’ way in looking at the body.
Until next time,