Angelina Jolie is one of the most famous and highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. Recognized for her career acting and directing and for numerous awards like an Oscar, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and three Golden Globes, Jolie is also recognized for her work as humanitarian. In 2013, in a preventive move, Jolie underwent a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer.
Jolie, 41, discovered three years ago she carries a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which meant she had an 87 percent risk of getting breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. After already losing her mother, grandmother, and aunt to cancer, she decided to act. The actress underwent a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer, and she opened up about it three years ago in an intimate opinion piece in the The New York Times titled “My Medical Choice.”
“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,” she wrote in the article. “We often speak of ‘Mommy’s mommy,’ and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us.”
“They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a ‘faulty’ gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.”
Jolie underwent medical procedures for three months, completing them on April 27, 2013. The actress considered keeping the process a secret, but she decided to share her experience to help empower other women.
Breast cancer is diagnosed in about one in every eight women, while having a mutation in the BRCA1 gene or a family history of breast cancer highly increases the risk of getting the disease. In addition to breast cancer, Jolie was also at a greater risk of ovarian cancer, which is why she decided to undergo another preventive surgery in 2015.
“I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes,” wrote Jolie in March 2015 in another New York Times opinion piece titled “Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery.” The actress shared her experience with the surgeries — again, to help other women be proactive and make their own choices.
She also spoke about some of the problems and side effects she is dealing with, including forced menopause. “It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer. I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer,'” she wrote.
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