Melissa Harris-Perry, 5/19/13, 10:00 AM ET

Your genes, your breasts, and the choices women face

Angelina Jolie’s story thrust the issue of breast cancer back onto the national stage this week. While her story is harrowing, it is not uncommon. Yet she is fortunate because she has access to health care and testing that can actually diagnose her...

Conversation about breast cancer shifts to genes

Updated

In a conversation on Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry, the panel talked about the complicated politics of cancer, health care, and the ways race and class create such a disparity when it comes to treatment and health outcomes. The culture surrounding cancer focuses so much on positive attitudes, “fighting,” and the newest technology that it has created an entire set of toxic messages to women about the right way to have cancer.

Angelina Jolie’s op-ed in the New York Times, in which she talked about her double mastectomy, raised awareness about breast cancer and the gene, BRCA1, that puts women at high risk of developing the disease.

“We want to feel that we have this measure of control, where we think if we do everything perfectly, if we get the right screening test, if we get the right reconstruction, we will be whole as people and we will get to survive,” said Salon’s Irin Carmon. “We don’t have the power to control all of those things. Some people will die, and it[’s not because they were weak or because they did something wrong in every case.”

Host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel discussed the effect the privatization has had on health care and the politics of fighting cancer on Sunday’s show.

Breast cancer has become a multi-billion dollar industry for non-profits, drug companies, and the insurance industry, which has led to what some think is too much awareness.

The Susan G. Komen foundation came under fire last year over a battle with Planned Parenthood–which was seen as a departure from their mission–but as Carmon put it, the Komen foundation has always been “a politicized group that has claimed a non-political mission.”

Rose-Ellen Lessy, a professor at the New School and New York University, described what it felt like to be bombarded by instructions to be concerned about breast cancer while her mother was dying from it. She also spoke about America’s “pervasive testing anxiety” and how this anxiety will allow Myriad, the company that has patented the gene, to turn a profit on the fears of women.

Watch the discussion and watch the show every Saturday and Sunday at 10 AM ET on msnbc.

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Conversation about breast cancer shifts to genes

Updated