The Great Debate

A woman’s choice

Actress Angelina Jolie’s tattoos on her left arm show the latitude and longitude of the birthplaces of her children and her partner Brad Pitt, January 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake

We use that word so often: choice.

It has become the code word for abortion, alas, and thus a lightening rod for activists on both sides of that continuing battle. But this week Angelina Jolie redeemed the word and the idea behind it — that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, however tough that choice sometimes is.

The one she made — and announced in an stunning New York Times Op-Ed — to have a double prophylactic mastectomy was gutsy, and, as she herself wrote, “not easy” — though doctors told her that she was carrying a faulty gene that upped her chances of getting the disease that killed her mother to 87 percent.

These are the moments of truth for any woman. When you look at your life; assess the risks; what’s at stake; what matters to you (and those you love), and then step up and say, yes, I will take control here.

I will make this rough decision. I will let my breasts be removed that I might live to see my kids grow up. There was something both fierce and tender in Jolie’s words, always the best, most winning combination.

The government’s waning support of breast cancer?

By Sally Pipes
The opinions expressed are her own.

Breast Cancer Awareness month, which wound down last month, appeared to get plenty of government support.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a teleconference in recognition of national mammography day. She and Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, touted a new program to promote awareness. The Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, spoke about the importance of early detection, and Barack Obama himself, in a Presidential proclamation, said that “we reaffirm our commitment to supporting breast cancer research.”

It’s a sad irony, then, that at the same moment our leaders say they’re working to fight breast cancer — which kills some 40,000 American women a year — the Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of revoking approval of an important treatment.

Live Debate: Breast cancer screening and mammography

cancerSweeping new U.S. breast cancer guidelines released on Monday recommend against routine mammograms for women in their 40s, and suggest women 50 to 74 only get a mammogram every other year.

The new guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an influential panel of independent experts, would sharply curtail the number of breast mammograms done in the United States, sparing women the worry of false alarms and the cost and trouble of extra tests.

But U.S. cancer experts say the altered schedule may mean more women will die from breast cancer.