Angelina Jolie is taking no chances with her health.
The actress revealed in an op-ed piece for The New York Times, running in Tuesday's edition of the paper, that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy because of her high risk of breast cancer.
Doctors told Jolie -- whose mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died six years ago at age 56 after a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer -- that she carries a "faulty" gene, BRCA1. They estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could," she wrote. "I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex."
Jolie underwent three months of medical procedures, which began Feb. 2 and were completed April 27. The procedures included reconstruction of both breasts with implants.
Jolie added that she was able to continue working during that time while keeping the procedures a secret.
"But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," she wrote. "Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
She said it wasn't an easy decision for her to make, but her chances of developing breast cancer have dropped to less than five percent.
"I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she wrote. "It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
Jolie was treated at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, which has four locations in the Los Angeles area and also has treated breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow. Jolie wrote that her regimen will be posted on the center's website soon.
She also noted that Brad Pitt, her longtime partner with whom she has six children, has been "loving and supportive" throughout the entire process.
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options," she 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."
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- Angelina Jolie
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer