Saying she is "writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," actress Angelina Jolie reveals on the op-ed pages of The New York Times that she had a double mastectomy earlier this year to substantially reduce the chances she will develop breast cancer.
Jolie, 37, explains that because she carries a "faulty" gene known as BRCA1, "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." Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, succumbed to ovarian cancer at age 56.
"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could," Jolie writes. "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."
The actress adds that:
"I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options."
On All Things Considered in August 2010, NPR's Patti Neighmond reported about a Journal of the American Medical Association study that showed the "clearest evidence yet that women carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes should consider preventive surgery because they are at a very high risk for breast and ovarian cancers."
Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York told All Things Considered that the study "confirms powerfully that genetic testing as well as surgery together are a powerful strategy to prevent breast and ovarian cancer."
In January, NPR's Richard Knox reported on the debate over the best way to detect breast cancers.