KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Angelina Jolie’s Choice Underscores Screening And Treatment Costs

News outlets report on the cost of and questions surrounding Angelina Jolie's decision to have genetic testing and then to undergo a double mastectomy as preventive surgery.

Marketplace: The Cost Of Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Testing? More Than $4,000
Angelina Jolie wrote an Op-Ed in today's New York Times about her decision to have a double mastectomy. The actress didn't have breast cancer, but tests showed she had almost a 90 percent chance of developing it. The key was finding a mutation in a gene known as BRCA-1, and Jolie appealed for the test to be made more accessible to women around the world. At the moment, if you want to get tested for a mutation on your BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes, you will have to turn to Myriad Genetics. That's the company that discovered the link between those mutations and an elevated risk cancer -- and it patented the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes. The price tag on a BRCA-1 and BRCA -2 test? More than $4,000 (Smith, 5/14).

Boston Globe: Angelina Jolie’s Preventive Surgery Shows Harsh Choices
Actress Angelina Jolie made a wrenching choice after a blood test detected a genetic defect that made breast cancer all but certain in her lifetime: She opted to have her breasts surgically removed. Her decision starkly highlights the less-than-ideal options available to women confronting a similar diagnosis. … Preventive surgery to remove the breasts and ovaries can dramatically reduce lifetime risk of getting these cancers to 5 percent or less. But those measures also mean an often long and painful recuperation from surgery as well as long-term consequences, such as reduced sexual pleasure and early menopause. … The $3,000 cost of the screening test may be an “obstacle for many women” without health insurance, as Jolie mentioned in her column, published Tuesday in The New York Times (Kotz, 5/15).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Angelina Jolie, Genetic Testing, And The ACA
Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, is on the record with a quick post on Angelina Jolie's startling announcement in a New York Times op-ed that she has had a prophylactic double mastectomy to cut her inherited risk of breast cancer. Jolie's mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, died of cancer at age 56, and Jolie found through genetic testing that she carries the BRCA1 gene. Brawley, who has been an outspoken critic of overtesting, answers many important questions that Jolie's decision raises (Webber, 5/14).

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