June 18, 2013 at 8:06 AM ET
Angelina Jolie's decision to get a double mastectomy after learning she had the breast cancer gene mutation has been lauded by many as courageous, empowering, and even heroic. But singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge -- a breast cancer survivor herself -- thinks it's actually the opposite of those things.
Asked about Jolie's recent New York Times op-ed, in which she revealed the news of her mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Etheridge told the Washington Blade that she wouldn't make the same decision for herself. Nor would she encourage others to do so without properly researching their options.
"I have to say I feel a little differently," the Grammy-winning chanteuse (who, incidentally, performed at Brad Pitt's wedding to Jennifer Aniston) said of the choice to get a preventive mastectomy. "I have that gene mutation too, and it's not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn't call it the brave choice. I actually think it's the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer."
"My belief is that cancer comes from inside you, and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It's the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything, but it never comes to cancer," she continued, noting that surgical removal of one's breasts is "way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do" to lessen your risk of the disease.
"I've been cancer-free for nine years now, and looking back, I completely understand why I got cancer," she added. "There was so much acidity in everything. I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion (of a mastectomy)."
To be fair, Jolie said in her May 14 editorial that the decision to have a mastectomy was a personal one. Her main point was that women should be informed about the various options available to them.
"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," she wrote.
"Life comes with many challenges," she explained. "The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."