What Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Scare Taught Us

In case you’re not a Starbucks addict and weren’t alerted by the sleeve color of your morning cup of joe, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Not that, in this day and age, the public needs much reminding of the prevalence of the disease. Most of us know someone who has struggled with this illness, and even if we don’t, we have the shining example of Angelina Jolie to keep us on our toes. Known for her gorgeous face and figure, the actress stunned the world with her Op-Ed piece in last May’s New York Times, which told of her double mastectomy.


Jolie’s decision came after genetic testing revealed she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, which puts women at a higher risk for developing reproductive cancers. Apparently, since her confessional, there’s been a significant increase in genetic testing at treatment centers nationwide. TIME magazine even went so far as to dub the phenomena “the Angelina Jolie effect.”


“Of all Americans, one million of us carry a BRCA1 mutation but it will take 19 million high-risk people to find the one million.  And those 18 million people then who don’t have BRCA1 are high enough risk to test,” says Jolie’s doctor, Dr. Kristi Funk, of the Pink Lotus Breast Cancer Center. To find out whether you’re a candidate for testing, take the Center’s risk assessment quiz here.


Aside from carrying the gene, here are the 10 symptoms women should watch for:


1. A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
2. Nipple discharge other than breast milk
3. Change in the size or shape of a breast
4. Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
5. Inverted nipple
6. Nipple pain or abnormal sensitivity
7. Peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple or breast skin
8. Breast pain or heightened tenderness
9. Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
10. A lump in the underarm area