x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Angelina Jolie's revelation will help women

Angelina Jolie's revelation about her preventive mastectomy will bolster efforts to destigmatise breast cancer around the world.

As one of the world's more visible celebrities, Angelina Jolie is accustomed to generating chatter. But instead of the usual ramblings about her romantic history, the talk this week was about her decision - announced via an op-ed in The New York Times - to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after a genetic test showed she was overwhelmingly likely to develop breast cancer.

Jolie said part of her goal was to generate dialogue on a topic that frequently invokes fear and feelings of powerlessness in those affected. She certainly achieved that, prompting countless variations of "What would you have done in her place?"

Overwhelmingly, reactions to her decision have been positive, largely because the conversation she has started is one women everywhere, and particularly in conservative societies, must have. Breast cancer remains a leading cause of death for women in the UAE - in part because the silence works against early detection.

Ms Jolie's revelation bolsters the efforts of others, such as the Saudi doctor Samia Al Amoudi who used her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2006 to publicise the issue. Dr Al Amoudi was quick to praise Jolie for helping "break the silence". Now, it's up to women everywhere to pick up where these two have left off.