WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) released the following statement regarding Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she recently underwent a double mastectomy after learning she carries the BRCA-1 gene mutation:
“Today, we learned that actress and human rights advocate Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy after learning she carries a genetic mutation, BRCA-1, that dramatically increases her risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
“As a carrier of the related BRCA-2 gene mutation myself, I am grateful to Angelina for bravely sharing her story, and demonstrating to all women that when it comes to our health – knowledge is power. By taking her family history and health decisions into her own hands, Angelina has sharply reduced her chances of getting diagnosed with the disease that tragically affects 1 in 8 women in our country today.
“It was shortly after my 41st birthday, and only 6 months after a clean mammogram, that I felt a lump while doing a routine self-exam in the shower. I was familiar enough with my body to know that something felt wrong, and sure enough, my doctor confirmed it with those devastating words – I had cancer. With an examination into my family history, it was recommended that I receive the genetic testing that ultimately discovered a mutation in the BRCA-2 gene, putting me, like Angelina, at a more than 80 percent lifetime risk of getting breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer. We both made difficult decisions and underwent multiple surgeries to ensure that we would be around to watch our kids grow up.
“I can totally relate to Angelina's experience. I have had difficult conversations with my young daughters because as a BRCA-2 carrier, there is nothing more gut-wrenching as a mom than not being able to reassure your children that they have nothing to worry about. I have promised my daughters that I will always make sure they have all the information they need to stay on top of their health and the knowledge and tools available to help save their lives. I will fight to make sure they grow up in a world that is determined to give them the best health care opportunities possible.
“With that in mind, as soon as I was cancer free, I introduced the Breast Health Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, or the EARLY Act, which became law along with the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The EARLY Act focuses on a central tenet: that we must empower young women to understand their bodies and speak up for their health. The EARLY Act creates an education and outreach campaign that will highlight the breast cancer risks facing young women 45 and under – especially communities at higher risk for genetic mutations like BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 – and empower them with the tools they need to fight this deadly disease. It is designed to help educate and sensitize health care providers about the specific threats and warning signs of breast cancer in younger women that lead to early detection, diagnosis, and survival.
“Angelina serves as a courageous role model, and I hope women across the country are taking notice of her message to young women that they have the ability to make informed choices when it comes to their health.”