Angelina Jolie announced on Tuesday that she has had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed over fears of cancer, following her double mastectomy two years ago.
The actor, who has lost her mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer, made the announcement in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. The Hollywood superstar carries a gene mutation that had given her an 87% risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 % risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Jolie wrote in the piece that tests had revealed that she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. "It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer," she wrote.
She said that after an annual test two weeks ago, she came to know that she had a number of inflammatory markers which taken together could be a sign of early cancer. Talking about husband Brad Pitt's support, she wrote, "I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful," she wrote.
While the PET/CT scans came out clear, there were chances of an early stage tumor but not full-blown cancer. She said she had still the option of removing her ovaries and she decided to take it.
Doctors also concurred with her. "My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39".
She wrote that unlike masectomy, the effects of this surgery are far more widespread.
"Regardless of the hormone replacements I’m taking, I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared," she added.
She also addressed other women who have to take this decision much earlier in their life and chalked out options that they have. "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.'"