When the news of Angelina Jolie's risk-reducing mastectomy broke last year, I felt proud to share my story as a high-risk young woman who had also chosen a similar procedure, in hopes of motivating millions of other young women to uncover their own risk for breast and ovarian cancer. And when the cover of Time Magazine deemed the superstar's announcement and subsequent international attention "The Angelina Effect," I took a giant sigh of relief. Maybe this would be the trigger that sparked urgency around preventionÃ¢â‚¬”maybe this would empower millions of women around the country to reduce their risk or take precautions to detect these diseases as early as possible.
Angelina Jolie made her announcement one year ago today. And as the past year has unfolded, I must admit that perhaps I was a bit naÃƒÂ¯ve to think that all it would take was a well-written op-ed and a media frenzy to inspire societal change. For one year later, a challenge remains.
A recent study on the impact of "the Angelina Effect" found that while most Americans were aware of Angelina's double mastectomy, fewer than 10 percent of respondents could accurately answer questions about breast cancer risk or felt motivated to act. In fact, only 5.8 percent of them spoke with their families about their health history, and just two percent spoke with their doctor about breast and ovarian health management. Additionally, many of those who did not have a family history of breast cancer thought their risk was lower than it actually was, and those with a family history misperceived the impact that health history had on their own risk. All in all, awareness did not lead to the action I had hoped for.
I believe that now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to shift the conversation from one centered around awareness to one focused on life-saving action. And completing this quick Assess Your Risk quiz by Bright Pink is one of the first steps. This simple, 15-question quiz is an informative and interactive way to empower yourself. The results can put you in the driverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seat when it comes to managing your own breast and ovarian health. And it just takes a few minutes.
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This innovative tool combines family health history (collected from both mom and dad's side) with lifestyle factors to provide you with a breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment summarized in a printable form. These results can lead to life-saving conversations with your doctor and family members as well as provide recommendations for risk reduction and early detection changes you can make today.
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In order to truly affect change on this anniversary of "the Angelina Effect," we're hoping for at least 20,000 women to complete the Assess Your Risk tool this week. And it all starts with you. Take five minutes now to assess your riskÃ¢â‚¬”it may just save your life.
MORE: How Angelina Jolie is Doing After Her Preventive Double Mastectomy
Lindsay Avner is the Founder and CEO of Bright Pink, a national non-profit dedicated to saving women's lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to be proactive at a young age.