In an op-ed for the New York Times published early Tuesday morning, Angelina Jolie revealed she removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes last week. The preventative surgery was related to the preventative double mastectomy she got back in 2013, an experience she also recounted in the Times. Jolie carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which significantly increases the chance of both breast and ovarian cancer. Carriers of the gene are urged to remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes in a subsequent surgery, but Jolie thought she had more time to make a decision.
Then two weeks ago, the actress received blood test results that indicated a possible early sign of cancer. She writes:
I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. 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.
Jolie scheduled an ultrasound, PET/CT scan, and tumor test. Ultimately, the tests came back negative, but there was still a small chance of cancer, a disease to which she lost her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Jolie chose to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, but decided to keep her uterus because uterine cancer wasn't present in her family history.
In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. 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.
The procedure "puts a woman into forced menopause," and Jolie revealed that she can no longer have biological children. But that was a small sacrifice for what she will gain.
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.”
Jolie's previous Times editorial prompted more women to get tested for the breast cancer gene, according to a Canadian study, dubbed the "Angelina Jolie Effect," published last September.
Read Jolie's powerful piece in its entirety here.
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