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TODAY   |  June 19, 2013

Melissa Etheridge: Jolie’s surgery was ‘fearful’

Breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge is stirring up controversy saying Angelina Jolie’s preventive mastectomy was not brave but “the most fearful choice you can make.” NBC’s  Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> well, something else that has a lot of people talking this morning, cancer survivor melissa etheridge 's take on angelina jolie 's decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. etheridge is calling that fearful and is standing by those cam meants. kristen has more on that.

>>> good morning. this week brad pitt told me angelina was bold for her decision to undergo a double mastectomy but melissa etheridge said she doesn't see it as brave.

>> reporter: both melissa etheridge and angelina jolie confronted cancer in public.

>> i feel great.

>> reporter: but etheridge is now voicing a very public disagreement. in an interview with the washington blade , the cancer survivor said she wouldn't call jolie 's choice to have a preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the gene brave.

>> i think it's the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer. that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do. etheridge says she too tested positive for the gene mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer . she developed the disease and underwent chemotherapy. and in a statement to today, etheridge said i don't have any opinion on what she should have done. all are free to choose. i only objected to the term brave describing it. jolie 's decision made headlines when she announced it last month. time dubbed it the angelina effect. experts say the resulting conversation and debate are no surprise.

>> cancer medicine is becoming increasingly personalized. it's a very public debate between two women facing the risk themselves captures an incredible debate within the field itself.

>> reporter: in her new york times add she wrote i want to encourage every woman to seek out the information and medical experts that can help you through this aspect of your life and to make your own informed choices. jolie said she wants genetic testing accessible to all women. while on the red carpet monday night, jolie 's partner brad pitt called etheridge an old friend but didn't back down on his praise for jolie .

>> right she's my hero.

>> jolie previously lost her mother with cancer. her aunt debbie lost her battle in late may.

>>> kristen, thank you. she is a gynecologist. good to see you.

>> good to see you also.

>> before we get into the details is there any value to this conversation disputing how one's position is characterized as fearful or brave?

>> absolutely not. aren't we all moms, whether you take an epidural for child birth or not? at the end of the day you're still a mom. at the end of the day she's still a breast cancer survivor, period.

>> we don't want to second guess anyone's choices. both women had the mutation of the gene. angelina chose the double mastectomy. melissa treated it successfully. is one superior to the other.

>> no, that's the great thing is you have all of the choices. some people choose it because the other option is either to do the chemo and also to surveil you every six months. it's like waiting for it to drop.

>> do you worry that some people might be too quick to choose the double mastectomy in light of what angelina jolie did.

>> it's a recommendation. you can go over all your choices but ultimately you're the one that does it.