Actress, director, and U.N. envoy Angelina Jolie is in the headlines today for her New York Times Op-Ed where she announced the removal her ovaries in a preventative measure to avoid cancer. The 39-year old weighed in on the difficult decision to undergo not only her double mastectomy two years ago, but the choice to undergo her current medical procedure:
“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.”
After Jolie’s doctor revealed that her CA-125 proteins, often used as a marker to indicate ovarian cancer, were “normal,” but that there were other “inflammatory markers that were elevated,” Jolie became alarmed, especially since her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 49:
“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.’
Jolie describes her most recent procedure, “a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy,” and explains to her readers that, although she has undergone these surgeries, her cancer risk is still not completely full proof:
“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.'”
You can read more of Jolie’s Op-Ed here.