Angelina Jolie has been refreshingly open about her health journey over the last few years. Now, in an article she penned this morning for the New York Times, she reveals that she’s had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure against cancer.
Two years ago, Angelina had a double mastectomy after learning that she tested positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which meant she had an 87 percent risk for breast cancer and a 50 percent risk for ovarian cancer.
In her article, Angelina stresses that she didn’t decide to have this surgery just because she carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation. She says her doctors agreed it was the best option for her because three women in her family have also died from cancer (including her mom, who died from ovarian cancer when she was 49 years old).
“I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt,” writes Angelina. “I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.”
There’s plenty of science backing up Angelina and her doctors’ choice. Women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations who have their ovaries removed may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by up to 80 percent and reduce their overall risk of death by up to 70 percent, according to a February 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
While the surgery will greatly reduce the actress’s risk of getting ovarian cancer (which about 15,000 women in the U.S. die from every year), it will also put the 39-year-old actress into early menopause. She’ll now experience symptoms like hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, and disturbances in sleep years before she would have had she not had her ovaries removed.
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Depsite this, Angelina is sure of her decision. And we commend her for being so honest and to helping educate women about cancer risks in women and preventative measures. “…I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I’m strong but because this is a part of life,” she writes. “It is nothing to be feared.”
Take Bright Pink’s quiz to assess your risk for ovarian cancer.