Skip to main content

Angelina Jolie's brave message

By Arthur Caplan, Special to CNN
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
Former "Dancing With the Stars" co-host Samantha Harris has breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy, <a href='http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20804710,00.html' target='_blank'>according to People</a>. The 40-year-old says she detected a lump during a self-exam and then followed up with a specialist after receiving a clean mammogram, the magazine reported. Former "Dancing With the Stars" co-host Samantha Harris has breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy, according to People. The 40-year-old says she detected a lump during a self-exam and then followed up with a specialist after receiving a clean mammogram, the magazine reported.
HIDE CAPTION
Celebrities battle cancer
Celebrities battle cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
Celebrities and battles with cancer
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Angelina Jolie revealed that she has had a double mastectomy
  • Arthur Caplan: For a woman whose career is tied to her looks, her decision is brave
  • He says she has done a real service for women by talking about testing, counseling
  • Caplan: Our health care system should find a way to cover costly preventive procedures

Editor's note: Arthur Caplan is the Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty professor and director of the Division of Bioethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

(CNN) -- By making public her story about how she dealt with the high risk of getting breast cancer, Angelina Jolie has done a real service for women around the world.

By letting us all know about her decision to get genetic testing for susceptibility to breast cancer -- and then, when the results came back positive, to have a double mastectomy -- she has bravely helped inform women with a history of breast cancer in their families about the need to seek out testing and counseling. For a woman whose career is tied to her appearance, her willingness to talk about her decision provides support to women and their partners who may face a similar difficult choice.

Five reasons we love Angelina Jolie

There are other lessons to be learned from her example. For one, reconstructive surgery is better than it was a few decades ago. For another, she chose not to have her ovaries removed, which some women do despite the resulting premature menopause and other hormonal changes.

Arthur Caplan
Arthur Caplan

Just as important is the issue of cost. Many insurance companies do not cover the cost of genetic testing for cancer and other conditions. The cost of the breast cancer test that Jolie had is prohibitive for many women. Some insurance companies won't pay for elective preventive mastectomy. And still others balk at the cost of reconstruction -- denying payment on the grounds that it is merely cosmetic or aesthetic.

Jolie's choice carries risks along with benefits

Women with breast cancer and ovarian cancer in their families should talk to their doctors about the desirability of testing. If they are found to be at risk, not all will follow Jolie's decision, since even radical double mastectomy is not a 100% guarantee against getting cancer.

My preventive mastectomy: Staying alive for my kids

Jolie: 'I've decided to be proactive'

As the U.S. pushes forward into health reform, Jolie's story reminds us that we need to adjust our health care system from one that pays for treatment to one that also covers prevention.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arthur Caplan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT