Angelina Jolie Reveals She Had a Double Mastectomy

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 14 2013 9:54 AM

Angelina Jolie Reveals She Had a Double Mastectomy

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Angelna Joile revealed Tuesday that she recently underwent a preventitive double mastectomy

Photo by Alastair Grant/AFP/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie makes news this morning in a New York Times op-ed, revealing that she recently underwent a preventitive double mastectomy to greatly decrease her risk of cancer:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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.

Jolie says that she finished the three months worth of surgeries the procedure involved on April 27, and was able to keep the news out of the media. She is coming forward now, she writes, in the hopes that her experience will help other women. "Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness," she says. "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. ...
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.
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