The celebrity effect. What happens when famous people reveal their health problems.


S hortly after movie star Angelina Jolie announced in a New York Times article in 2013 that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy, Twin Cities oncologist Barbara Bowers, MD, posted this on a blog site: " Kudos to Angelina Jolie, who had the strength of character to not only have a life-preserving treatment for familial breast cancer, but to share it with us. " Bowers thought Jolie not only had made a wise personal decision, as she was indeed at high risk for cancer because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation, but also that she had handled her announcement about it with aplomb. " She made a statement. She didn't make a huge number of appearances , and she didn't go into anything but the facts about her decision. That was a class act, " she says. What happened immediately following the announcement was another story. Jolie, considered by many to be one of the world's most beautiful women, became the topic of endless discussions online, in print, and on television and radio. Had she made the right decision? What should other women do? " There were so many people talking on both sides that it left young women who were in the same position confused, " Bowers says. Many ended up in their doctors' offices. Bowers, a breast specialist who practices with Minnesota Oncology, found herself trying to convince patients with small tumors that they were ideal candidates for lumpectomy and radiation rather than mastectomy. Others who had neither breast cancer nor a BRCA gene mutation thought they needed to make the same choice Jolie had made because a family member had breast cancer. With each concerned patient, Bowers carefully explained that a small group of women have a genetic predisposition. That only one in 10 women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. That only about 50 percent of those have a genetic abnormality. And that there is no scientific benefit to having the breasts removed if there is no family history and genetic mutation. Then she' d try to help them understand their own thinking. " I wanted them to acknowledge why they were making the decision and what they were basing the decision on, " she says. " People are so involved with celebrities—they get to know them in their minds, who they think they are and what they are and what they …

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@article{Peota2015TheCE, title={The celebrity effect. What happens when famous people reveal their health problems.}, author={Carmen Peota}, journal={Minnesota medicine}, year={2015}, volume={98 3}, pages={12-4} }