The seriousness of cancer can not be denied. Chances are, if you’re on this site, someone you know has fought or is currently fighting their battle with cancer. This week, well-known actress Angelina Jolie shared some surprising news about a personal decision that she had made to prevent the disease. The actress says that she has had a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carried a gene that made it extremely likely she would get breast cancer. The 37-year-old actress made the announcement in the form of an op-ed she authored for Tuesday’s New York Times under the headline, “My Medical Choice.” She writes that between early February and late April she completed three months of surgical procedures to remove both breasts. She wrote:
My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was. 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. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
Angelina writes that she made the choice with thoughts of her six children after watching her own mother die too young from breast cancer. She said that after genetic testing she learned she carries the “faulty” BRCA1 gene and had an 87 percent chance of getting the disease herself. She further explained the process, stating:
My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a ‘nipple delay, which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area.
She then describes the major surgery two weeks later where breast tissue was removed, saying it felt “like a scene out of a science-fiction film,” then writes that nine weeks later she had a third surgery to reconstruct the breasts and receive implants.
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.
She briefly addresses the effects of the surgery on the idealized sexuality and iconic womanhood that have fueled her fame. She also wrote that Brad Pitt, her partner of eight years, was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Southern California for “every minute of the surgeries.” Many women have chosen preventive mastectomy since genetic screening for breast cancer was developed, but the move and public announcement is unprecedented from a star so young and widely known as Jolie. Click here to read her full editorial.