Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Angelina's Mastectomy....My Lobotomy?

I have my radio on constantly. I mean constantly. I cannot sleep without it on. Radio 4, always, it has to be talking. I cannot reside in a silent house, there must be voices, even if they are detached, impersonal voices that don't know I even exist. Anyway I probably absorb a hell of a lot of information subconsciously. My brain should be a veritable soup of conflicting facts, a melting pot of politics and opinions. No wonder I'm messed up. Anyway this is getting irrelevant. The point I'm getting to is I woke up to hear the reader giving a report on Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy. It gave the story of how she'd had various medicals and genetic research and she had something like 87% chance of getting breast cancer. So she took the decision to lop them off rather than risk her life.

It was weird this story surfaced now because only yesterday me and my mother had a debate about the increasing ability to track your genetic disposition to more and more diseases and illnesses. This has largely been presented as an advantage by the media, a tool that empowers us, a means of protection, a form of self insurance. Now don't get me wrong; I think humans have become medical marvels, both in our research abilities and the treatments it now enables, and cases like Angelina Jolie's demonstrates this. But we humans seem very quick to latch onto new developments and discoveries and seem to get caught in an excited frenzy following any successes.

Take the development of Prozac for instance, only years after it's emergence into the medical domain have people realised that during this period it was perhaps overused. It seems that in the hype of its successes doctors and GP's became slightly pill happy, firing it at patients who had been in their surgery room a matter of minutes. A snap diagnosis of depression, barely investigated, solved with a wonder pill. I don't mean to be so dramatic, I've used Prozac as my first example but look at the invention of the microwave. Once it became available to consumers it was a startlingly short period of time before mothers who had competently managed to cater for families from 3 to 10+ members with ovens, hobs and grills before owning a microwave to, a few months down the line, vow never to be parted from it. A surge of recipe books solely for microwaves were published. Things that should NEVER be done in a microwave were shown to be the only way to do it. I mean there are even recipes to cook steaks in the microwave, that's never going to be nice.

Now, although I've elaborated on the negative quite a bit, I do see the large advantages of knowing your genetic disposition to physical ailments, especially if it protects your children. Now I come to my real issue; people being told about their genetic disposition to mental illness. I'm pretty much all in the court of it being a bad idea. I know a lady who has traced her family history of alzheimers and has been warned that she is classed as a higher risk candidate for the same disease. Great, so where do we go from here? I hardly see it as a case of 'for warned, for armed'. There is no concrete evidence that Alzheimers can be triggered or caused by  lifestyle choices. So her knowing doesn't mean she can go and buy a pill, take extra exercise, eat her greens and it wont happen. The reality is that this lady is subject to lapses in memory like the whole population, the difference is that now she is hyper sensitive to these lapses and even if she doesn't specifically conclude it is the onset of the disease it is certainly a grim possibility in her mind. Now we all know how fear, nervousness and general stress affects cognition. We get muddled, mix our words, sometimes forget them all together, even stumble over our own age or address; do we suddenly think we have alzheimers? Largely anyway; no. No because we've no reason to believe we should have it. The point I'm trying to demonstrate is too much knowledge can harm rather than help.

My mum had an eating disorder and I honestly cant remember if I knew about this before I developed mine, its hard to pinpoint when it went from a diet to an eating disorder for a start. But I do often wonder if did know this whether it made me more susceptible to developing it myself. I don't in any way want you to think my mum engaged in ED behaviours around me because she never ever did, but just knowing she had reacted to life's tough patches with anorexia perhaps could have given me ideas.

We don't question the validity of 'learnt behaviours' when they relate to a child consciously witnessing actions and lifestyles of their parents or those they are surrounded by. My wonder is why don't more people consider the more subtle influences on children. I'm thinking here of depression. There are countless depressed people in this world and a large percentage of the sufferers will be taking care of children. While some parents depression may be unhidden there are doubtless thousands of parents who paste a very effective veneer to hide it from everyone; especially their kids. But depression is powerful, cunning and unrelenting and try as you might, there are going to be times when you cant control or hide it. Perhaps children don't actively remember these instances but that doesn't mean it doesn't impact on them. So if you combine this scenario with the child growing to adulthood and finding out they have a genetic link to depression well then I cant help but think this makes a lot (not all people, granted, but a lot) more likely to expect depression and it become a self fulfilling prophesy. I don't know, these are just my views. I'm not aiming to convert people to my way of thinking, I'd like to make people think about it though.

So I've come full circle back to Angelina Jolie's boobs. So she can have them removed but what can I do about the cancer in my brain? I guess that's where Lobotomies came from. And personally I think it's a bloody good job they stopped. Some things humans should just not mess with; cutting out bits of peoples brains seems to be a good place to start.

No comments:

Post a Comment