News item from TOI today: "Two years after her double mastectomy, actress and humanitarian (don't know what that means), Angelina Jolie (age 39) said she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to avoid the risk of ovarian cancer. She had surgery last week after blood tests what could have been early signs of the disease that killed her mother at age 56. " (The comments in brackets and underlining are mine).
The salient point here is that both her surgeries were based on "statistical probability". This assumes a lot of things: that heredity in disease is a fate that you cannot escape, that the "tests" are good markers for predicting disease, that these diseases are inevitable and no amount of lifestyle changes can change the course of things - none of these assumptions is true.
In parts do I depart
My grandfather died of prostate,
Cancer of which laid him prostrate!
My father and uncle followed,
Colon cancer's what laid them low!
I, of course, went, had them removed,
As the data, cut and diced, proved.
My brother held on to his parts,
I wonder how come he's still alive!
For the risk of dying's great I'm told
of what your fathers died of before.
My brother should have died long ago,
But to test himself, he will not go!
While I drown in data every day,
Testing myself in infinite ways,
My brother eats well, sleeps well, and plays,
And swears that is what keeps him hale!
I don't believe it, data can't lie!
My gall bladder goes, or I die!
My aunt died due to lack of gall,
Fear is what led to her downfall!
My brother refuses to listen.
He says he won't die part by part.
He would rather cherish and keep them,
And be happily whole till he departs!
25 March, 2015