Angelina Jolie made the decision to have a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. The 37-year old actress admitted that she committed to the procedure to reduce her risk for the disease as much as possible.
In a New York Times op-ed, Jolie was candid about her own mother's ten year battle with breast cancer, until it took her life at the age of 56. Jolie said of herself that she carries a faulty gene which makes her risk of getting breast cancer 87 percent.
Jolie admits that she had a defect of the human tumor suppressor gene called BRAC1. This gene helps to repair DNA and if damaged, can increase risks for cancers. This harmful mutation of the BRAC1gene results in hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome.
"I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer," Jolie said in the New York Times article.
On average, people who have a defective in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting breast cancer. "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," Jolie said.
Jolie said the double mastectomy required three months of medical procedures, which finished on April 27. Although Jolie admits that she maintained privacy and continued with her work while undergoing the mastectomies, she is speaking out now. "I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," Jolie said. Having the double mastectomy decreased Jolie's risk of getting breast cancer significantly, dropping it from 87 percent to 5 percent.
"It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live," Jolie said. According to the World Health Organization, 458,000 people die from breast cancer each year.