Angelina Jolie, an actress known not only for her large family but for guarding her privacy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday that she recently underwent a preventative double mastectomy. Jolie revealed she made the decision to have the procedure after learning she carries a mutant gene that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancers.
Jolie, who is mom to six children with partner Brad Pitt, lost her own mother to cancer at the age of 56. She said it was the experience of losing her mother and the fear of the same happening to her children that prompted her to undergo a series of operations that began on February 2 and ended on April 27.
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
Jolie said that once she knew she carried the gene, she decided to "be proactive and minimize the risk as much as I could," she wrote. Jolie goes on to detail the multiple procedures in the op-ed, and how she feels in the aftermath, including the support she felt from longtime love Brad Pitt during the process. "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," she said.
The actress and director said that while she was able to maintain her privacy during the procedures, the decision to speak up about what she went through is to encourage women to make their own choices and ensure that they have access to gene testing, like she did:
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.