Melissa Etheridge Critiques Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Decision

melissaetheridgeLast month I lauded Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy in order to prevent breast cancer. Jolie has an 87% for breast cancer and 50% for ovarian cancer due to her genetics. There has been controversy about Angelina’s decision. But now singer Melissa Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor herself, says that Angeline’s pre-emptive surgery is because of fear, not bravery.

Here’s what Etheridge told the Washington Blade:

I have to say I feel a little differently. I have that gene mutation too and it’s not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer . . . I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.

CNN had an interesting discussion yesterday with another breast cancer survivor who admires Angelina Jolie’s choice. According to E.D.Hill, Angelina Jolie made her decision because she wants to be a good mother. Here’s the full video so you don’t have to click over. ;)

I can see all three women’s points of view. If I knew I had a very high chance of developing breast cancer, I would definitely think about having a mastectomy. The challenge with that decision is that most insurance companies would not pay for that surgery if there wasn’t an actual diagnosis of cancer. Angelina Jolie payed for her “elective” surgery out of her own pocket. Most of us do not have that luxury.

On the other hand, should people cut off their penises if they feel they have a high risk of testicular or prostate cancer? (I’ll repress my urge to make a weiner joke right now.)

As for me, I have brain cancer. There’s no good reason for cutting out chunks of your brain. However, I can relate to both Melissa Etheridge and Angelina Jolie’s perspectives. In the end it’s about being a fighter and a survivor. I’d love to hear your opinion.

P.S. If you need a pick me up, just check out Megan Kowalewski’s adaptation of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Stronger” on Youtube. This always gives me courage when I am heading in for an MRI or blood work. Even if you’re not struggling with cancer, we all have our down days.

About Serena:
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.


  1. I think that everyone should have the right to make decisions about their own health care and that it’s not for other people to judge the choices people make about their bodies. Angelina Jolie’s choice might not be the one that I would make but I’m sure as heck glad she had the opportunity to make her own decision.

  2. First: No one has a right to criticize the decision that Angeline made.
    Second: If I faced the same challenge I would have made the same decision if I could somehow pay for it. If I couldn’t pay the price here, I would probably go find a hack in a foreign country to do the job.
    Third: Insurances need to pay for this surgery. The cost of preventive care is always less than the cost of care after diagnosis with cancer. (Financially, physically and emotionally.)

  3. Did Melissa Etheridge know she carried the gene before she was diagnosed with cancer? I have to wonder if her decision would have been different had she known prior to her diagnosis…

    • Good question, Carrie. I don’t know the answer, but I am curious. Please believe that I’ll be following up on this story.

  4. I agree with all three of you. My body, my choice.

    If someone has a high genetic propensity to develop diabetes or heart disease, no one would criticize that person for taking preventative measures, such as monitoring their blood sugar; changing to a low-fat, low-glucose diet; or for exercising. So what is the difference?

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