Celebrity and the Ripple Effect
By Chad Knight, MSHA
Zimmer Cancer Center
New Hanover Regional Medical Center
This week actress Angelina Jolie’s New York Times op-ed piece, “My Medical Choice,” focused enormous media attention on genetic testing for breast cancer and treatment options. By sharing her story, Jolie hopes to raise awareness. She writes:
For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.
At our cancer center, requests for information from local media and the public were immediate and compelling. In response to multiple requests from media outlets and to proactively answer questions from the community, our cancer program scheduled a press conference with the primary goal of educating our community on the importance of cancer screenings, including genetic counseling and testing.
Jolie’s announcement presents the oncology community with an opportunity to raise local awareness of the importance of access to genetic testing and counseling to help with informed, patient-driven decision making. In fact, I agree with Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian of MD Anderson who in a follow-up article expressed her hope that Jolie’s announcement will “focus women on the value of genetic counseling and making informed decisions.”
With opportunity comes challenge. Rest assured we will continue to field questions and address concerns, especially those from patients with a known family history. The challenge will be how we, with limited resources, ensure that our community is informed such that they can make educated decisions about their own health. How do we expand reimbursement models for more genetic counseling and testing and other cancer screenings? How do we make certain our medical community is collaborative and adhering to the most current evidence-based guidelines? Our challenges are great, but our opportunities are greater.
Chad Knight, MSHA, is Administrator, Oncology Services, at ACCC member New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Zimmer Cancer Center, in Wilmington, N.C.
For more on how ACCC member cancer programs responded this week, read “Angelina Jolie, BRCA1 and the Power of Celebrity” from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.