Angelina Jolie underwent preventive double mastectomy, she announced in a New York Times article on Tuesday. She decided to undergo this surgery after learning she is a carrier for BRCA1 gene mutation, which increases her risk for developing breast cancer and also ovarian cancer.
“My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman,” Jolie wrote. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.”
In 2007 Angelia Jolie’s mother Marcheline Bertrand, at age 56 died of ovarian cancer. Jolie is 37 years old.
In the Times op-ed, titled “My Medical Choice,” Jolie said she finished three of medical procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Cancer in California on April 27 that included the mastectomies and reconstruction.
A mastectomy is an operation that removes all or part of the breast.
Jolie wrote that her experience involved a 3 step process. The actress had a procedure on February 2nd, that increases the chance that the nipple can be saved. She then had a major surgery where the breast tissue was removed and temporary fillers were put in the place, which was done two weeks later. After nine weeks from her second surgery she underwent “reconstruction of the breast with an implant.”
“There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years,” she said, “and the results can be beautiful.”
Jolie also wrote that, “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,” Jolie wrote. “my chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%.”
BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes, which are a class of genes known as tumor suppressors which will normally suppress the growth of tumor, but if mutated they will lose that ability and the tumor will grow.
Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (most common in male) genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test can determine if a woman is “highly susceptible” to the cancer.
Jolie acknowledged that surgery might not be the right choice for every woman.
“For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options,” Jolie wrote. “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 decision for Jolie 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.