Angelina Jolie recently had a double mastectomy, according to an op-ed published in the New York Times on May 14.
The 37-year-old actress underwent nearly three months of medical procedures, from Feb.2 to Apr. 27, to have both her breasts removed and cosmetically restored. The double mastectomy came in response to the revelation that Jolie was a carrier of a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The article, titled "My Medical Choice," also revealed how Jolie's mother, the late actress Marcheline Bertrand, died from cancer at the age of 56. Jolie, who was told by doctors that she had an 87 percent risk of contracting breast cancer, listed her own children as a primary motive for having the procedure.
"We often speak of 'Mommy's mommy,' and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us," Jolie, a mother of six, wrote in response to conversations with her children about their deceased grandmother. "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."
The double mastectomy, which, according to Jolie, left only "small scars," decreased her risk of developing breast cancer from 87 percent to under 5 percent. She also wrote that she was "fortunate" to have her partner Brad Pitt for his support.
The "Mighty Heart" actress encouraged others to receive testing for breast cancer, which kills 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. She also advocated that gene testing, which can cost several thousands dollars, be made available for all women, "whatever their means and background, wherever they live."
"I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer, "Jolie concluded. "It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options."