(RNN) – Actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer.
In a New York Times op-ed, the Academy Award winner told the story of how her mother fought breast cancer for nearly 10 years, eventually succumbing to the disease at the age of only 56. Jolie said that she inherited the BRCA1 gene, which made her highly susceptible to breast 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,” Jolie wrote.
The stark reality that she could die of the same disease that took her mother prompted Jolie to have a preventative double mastectomy last year. And after having the procedure, Jolie hoped to encourage other women to get tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and to not be afraid of getting a mastectomy if they need to.
“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,” Jolie said.
“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.”
Although Jolie admitted that the procedure can at times be painful and frightening, Jolie explained that it was worth it for her.
“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,” Jolie said.
She added: “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.”
Although getting a BRCA1 and BRCA test done could save one’s life, getting it done can cost $3,000, which is out of reach for most women – a problem Jolie addressed in her op-ed.
According to the World Health Organization, Jolie said, breast cancer kills about 458,000 people each year, most of them in low and middle-income countries.
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