Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday in a New York Times editorial that she had a preventative double mastectomy. She learned she carried a gene that gave her a 87 percent chance to get breast cancer. Her own mother died at 56 of breast cancer after a 10-year battle.
“The Oscar-winning actress and partner to Brad Pitt made the announcement in the form of an op-ed she authored for Tuesday’s New York Times (http://nyti.ms/17o4A0f ) 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.
“Jolie, 37, writes that she made the choice with thoughts of her six children after watching her own mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, die too young from cancer.
“My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56,” Jolie writes. “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 writes that, “They have asked if the same could happen to me.”
“Jolie 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 said she has kept the process private so far, but wrote about it with hopes of helping other women.
“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,” Jolie writes. “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.”
“Phone and email messages left by The Associated Press late Monday night seeking comment from Jolie representatives were not immediately returned.
“She is anything but private in the details she provides, giving a description of the procedures.
“My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a ‘nipple delay,’” she writes, “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.”
“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.
“She briefly addresses the effects of the surgery on the idealized sexuality and iconic womanhood that have fueled her fame.
“I do not feel any less of a woman,” Jolie writes. “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
“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.”
For any woman it would be a difficult choice to have your own flesh removed, but I think a particularly difficult choice for someone whose career partially relies on her beauty. I’m glad she knew the importance of being around for family and didn’t let vanity or fear get in the way. (Although, I’m sure the doctors did a beautiful job on her reconstructed breasts.)
I went for my annual check up around January and they had me fill out a form assessing my risk factor for cancers that are generally hereditary. I came out looking good on the breast cancer. We don’t have it in our family. But I know I am totally screwed on the autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. I am waiting for that to hit any day. I still need to get my mammogram for the year. I have the paper work sitting on my desk, and I haven’t had time to do it. I am hoping to get in next week before the kids gets out of school.
If breast cancer runs in your family have you looked into genetic testing? Would you have a preventative double mastectomy? What do you think of Jolie’s decision to do it? What do you think of her decision to share the news? Would her decision influence your decision?