Actress Angelina Jolie announced in a New York Times op-ed article on Tuesday that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy (breast removal) after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her mother, actress and producer Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56.
Note: BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes – a class of genes known as tumor suppressors, according to the National Cancer Institute. Mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test can determine if a woman is “highly susceptible” to the cancers.
In the Times op-ed, titled “My Medical Choice”, multiple award-winning Angelina Jolie said she finished three months of medical procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in California on 27th April that included the mastectomies and reconstruction:
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.
I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent.
For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. 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.
The actress has been in a relationship with actor Brad Pitt since the mid-2000s and they are engaged. The couple has three biological and three adopted children. For Angelina Jolie, the decision to undergo double mastectomy ultimately came down to her kids.
“I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer”, she said.
It’s a pain Jolie knows all too well from losing her mother to the disease.