Angelina Jolie-Pitt has been very vocal about her health and in 2013 revealed that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy because she carried a gene that greatly increased her chances of getting breast and ovarian cancer. Sadly, Jolie-Pitt’s mother, grandmother and aunt all died from this disease, but the star is taking measures to ensure she’ll be around to see her children grow up.
Last week, the 39-year-old had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after doctors detected a possible sign of early cancer.
The actress wrote a moving New York Times op-ed piece explaining her decision, which means the mom of six — three of whom are adopted — will not be able to biologically have any more children. See the excerpt from Jolie-Pitt below:
“TWO years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. A simple blood test had revealed that I 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.
I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes.
I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause. So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date.
Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. ‘Your CA-125 is normal,’ he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
But that wasn’t all. He went on. ‘There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.’ I took a pause. “CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,” he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.
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.
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.
That same day I went to see the surgeon, who had treated my mother. I last saw her the day my mother passed away, and she teared up when she saw me: “You look just like her.” I broke down. But we smiled at each other and agreed we were there to deal with any problem, so ‘let’s get on with it.’”
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