The Angelina Jolie Effect: Survey Finds Celebrity Health Choices May Impact Important Consumer Health Decisions

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

LLH network pressStudy Also Finds that Women Are Often Unaware of All Breast Cancer Treatment Options

It’s widely known that celebrities have an impact on consumer opinions when it comes to fashion choices, hairstyles, cars and vacations spots. Now, a survey commissioned by The BC5 Project, a group focused on broadening awareness of breast cancer treatment options, suggests that famous personalities may also be impacting important medical decisions. The findings also point out that some women are opting for treatments without full knowledge of all the therapies available to them.

According to a national survey of 100 women aged 50+ who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, more than half of the women surveyed believed that actor Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy will make other women more comfortable choosing to do the same.

“This is a worrisome statistic for a number of reasons, most obviously its suggestion that many women are willing to make a life-changing decision they may not fully understand based on a situation that’s not their own,” said Dr. Cathryn Yashar, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, the University of California San Diego and part of The BC5 Project.

“Also of concern is data from a recent Harvard/Dana Farber study which shows the growing number of women who are inclined to have their breasts surgically removed as an alternative to the equally effective breast conserving surgery,” Dr. Yashar added. “It begs the question of whether or not women are fully aware of all their options.”

Results from The BC5 Project survey suggest this, reporting that one-third of women surveyed were only presented with one treatment option from their doctor, and only 27 percent sought a second opinion on their diagnosis or treatment.  When asked specifically about Breast Brachytherapy, for example, a five-day radiation therapy also known as APBI, less than one in 10 women even knew the option existed.  A full three-quarters of women who would have been candidates for the treatment report that they would have been interested in the therapy.

“This is just one example of how the lack of knowledge about options is affecting women and their treatment choices,” said Yashar.  “As physicians, we should strive to take on a more active role becoming aware of all the options ourselves, so we can better educated women and close this knowledge gap.”

About The BC5 Project

The BC5 Project is a recently formed group made up of representatives of the corporate and academic communities as well as practicing physicians who share a common goal:  to ensure that all women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer are well-informed about their treatment options.  The BC5 Project plans to leverage the expertise of thought leaders in the medical community by making information available that explains the lifestyle implications as well as the relative benefits of treatment choices that include 5-day radiation therapy, breast conservation therapy, mastectomy and others.  For more information visit www.bc5project.com.