Angelina Jolie Reveals Her Decision To Undergo A Preemptive Double Mastectomy

"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive"

Back in April we learned that Sharon Osbourne made the difficult but brave decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy due to her genetic predisposition to breast cancer … today we learn that actress Angelina Jolie has made that difficult and brave decision as well. In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, Angelina reveals to the world that she has decided that due to an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, her only option was to undergo the procedure … and today she shares her story with the world. Click below to read excerpts from her NYT piece … it’s an amazing story that I think each and every one of you should read.

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. 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. My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex. On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work. But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action … 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. It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. 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. I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has. For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.

You can read Angelina Jolie‘s entire piece for the New York Times HERE, I urge you to PLEASE take the time to read her story and take her words to heart. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine having to face a decision to undergo a surgery like this but women are faced with this same scenario on a daily basis. An 87% chance of developing breast cancer is something that cannot be ignored, so I guess this decision sounds easy … that is, until you are the one that has is faced with the reality. I cannot express how brave I think Angelina is, not only to make this decision for herself — and in turn, her family — but also with her decision to share her story with the world. I must confess, I do not know enough about this kind of genetic testing to speak with any authority whatsoever, and I am humbled by Jolie‘s story … but I urge you readers out there to seek out more information about this kind of preventative testing, if possible. Thank you Angelina, for sharing with the world your brave medical choice.

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  1. Luna

    I love her even more after reading this. A truly courageous and inspiring woman. She isn’t lucky to have Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt IS lucky to have her.

  2. brca1+

    Thank you for posting this story! Angelina is my hero! Her story made me tear up as I have tested positive for BRCA1. I think that her sharing her experience will bring so much more awareness.

  3. She is amazing. Really courageous. I applaud and respect her decision to speak publicly and hope it will spur other women to take such preventative measures if they are high risk. They are just breasts. I would rather lose my breasts than my life.

  4. She is an amazing woman for her honesty on this. I hope others can see this and be inspired.

  5. Gillian

    I have such mixed feelings about this. I understand why she did it. I don’t know if I could purposely, physically remove parts of my body because there was a chance I could get cancer. Without a doubt I’m sure this has to be one of the most difficult decisions a woman with a higher than average risk of cancer could make. Do I take a chance, keep my breasts, and IF I get cancer fight like hell to live? Or do I remove the IF, my breasts, and potentially my other body parts that essentially make me a woman? This is so complicated on so many levels (medically, emotionally, financially, physically…) No one can dispute what Angelina did was brave, courageous, and challenging in every way. Hopefully Angelina uses her massive star power to bring this issue to light. That early detection is key, and every woman should have access to the necessary healthcare needed to combat cancer.

    • Lori

      you do realize that Angelina has new boobs, right?

    • Gillian

      Yes, she has new breasts, but it is not the same. It will never be the same. At the end of the day she opted to remove a part of her body. If she ends up choosing to remove her ovaries and uterus, they do not give you a “new” set of those.

    • Vicky

      At the end of the day, she OPTED TO LIVE. To be a mother to her children, a wife to her (soon to be) husband. Living is all that matters. Having tits doesn’t make you a woman. Being a woman makes you a woman.

    • This makes me really sad. Boobs do not make you a woman-unless you can say that with a straight face to a woman who has none, or very little ones. Eve Jolie has said-losing her breasts did not make her feel any less feminine-and thousands of women who choose not to reconstruct need not feel any worse about their bodies.

    • I completely agree in your premise, Natalie, but…
      As someone whose family members have had mastectomies, there is a very strong psychological reaction that can come with having a part removed that has been so strongly associated with femininitiy for hundreds of years. You don’t really know how “boobs” dominate popular culture until you see it through the eyes of someone who has had a mastectomy. Sad and unfortunate as it is, it can make women feel bad about themselves, which is why we are so lucky to have more options for prosethesis and reconstruction than they did in decades past. I am glad that AJ made her comments about not feeling like less of a woman….because many women DO need to hear that.

      I have known a woman who died of breast cancer because she was too horrified at the thought of mastectomy. It is important that as a society we discuss these real feelings of fear and femininity. Once we acknowledge these feelings, we can discuss the many ways in which treatment options address them too. Acting like those feelings don’t exist simply because they “shouldn’t” exist doesn’t acknowledge the problem.

    • Gillian

      I am in no way saying that the loss of your breasts, ovaries or any other female parts makes you less of a woman. I’m saying that physically, the idea of removing a part of my body in the chance that I may get cancer would be extremely difficult.

  6. Natalie

    never thought i could love her more!! she’s such an inspiration.

  7. This really resonates with me. She has BRCA1, and there is also BRCA2. My family has a strong history of breast cancer, but has tested negative for both genes. I just became enrolled in a high risk group, and they are treating me as if I have a gene that just hasnt’ been discovered yet. However, they do not recommend preventative mastectomies. I have often thought about my future of getting tested many times a year for the rest of my life. What if it gets caught too late even with all of the testing? This story will be in my thoughts all day today…

  8. I just adore and respect her so much! I think it was incredibly brave for her to share her story, especially as someone who is defined in the media as being one of the sexiest and most beautiful women alive. I think it’s so important that people read her story and realize that femininity has nothing to do with breasts. Removing her breast removed her high risk of cancer and that is it. What an amazing role model this woman is!

  9. VV

    She’s very brave. Even more brave to share it with the world.

  10. Siobhan

    I remember not too long ago reading pregnancy rumors about her because no one had seen her in public for a while. I guess now we know why. She is very brave and I would make the same decision. They’re just breasts. I’d rather have fake ones than die at an early age.

  11. Alecia

    My mom’s a two time survivor with no known history. Her paternal grandmother died when my grandfather was a child and we know it was some form of cancer but since it was the depression era and the access to medical technology was limited, it’s only a guess that it may have been breast cancer.
    I understand and applaud Angelina’s decision to go through with this process. I know it was far from easy but as a woman I think the sanctity of life and wanting to see your children grow up is way more important than having your natural breasts throughout your life. Your femininity doesn’t change because body parts were removed or alter. I’d rather live without a body part than die with everything in tact.
    I really hope her story helps bring greater recognition to preventative actions and inspires people to demand affordable treatments for cancer prevention.

  12. Jackie

    What I’m most impressed by is through it all, she and Brad Pitt had kept everything under wraps. Not even a leak. And when she chose to reveal it, it was on her own terms and in a respectable publication. I really really really respect her for it. Here is a woman who actually doesn’t care for Hollywood or fame. Can’t say the same for other celebrities who milk the opportunity for publicity wholly whenever it arises.

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