Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, 37, has revealed that she underwent a double mastectomy over fears of developing a breast cancer and removed both breasts in February.
Medical tests revealed that the mother of six had 87 percent chance of having breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. She decided to go for treatment after her children asked her if she would meet with the same fate of their grandmother, who died of ovarian cancer at 57.
The actress, who revealed her experience in a special column for New York Times, said that she decided to share her story with the hope of helping other women around the world.
"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.
"We often speak of "Mommy's mommy," and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a "faulty" gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer," she wrote.
"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," she wrote, adding, "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."
The treatment started on 2 February and ended on 27 April. The breast tissue was removed and temporary fillers were put in place during the surgery that could last upto eight hours. the final surgery involving reconstruction of the breasts with an implant was done nine weeks later.
The actress said that she decided to share her experience after keeping it a secret for months with the hope of bringing about breast cancer awareness. She said that "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," she wrote.
She went on to say that she was fortunate to have a partner like Brad Pitt, who was by her side during her treatment at the Pink Lotus Breast Center.
Maintaining that breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, Angelina Jolie said that it is necessary to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment.
"I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.
"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of," she concluded.