Actress Angelina Jolie Shares Story Of Her Double Mastectomy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saying she is "writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," actress Angelina Jolie reveals on the op-ed pages of The New York Times that she had a double mastectomy earlier this year to substantially reduce the chances she will develop breast cancer.

Jolie, 37, explains that because she carries a "faulty" gene known as BRCA1, "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." Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, succumbed to ovarian cancer at age 56.

"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could," Jolie writes. "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 actress adds that:

"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."

On All Things Considered in August 2010, NPR's Patti Neighmond reported about a Journal of the American Medical Association study that showed the "clearest evidence yet that women carrying the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes should consider preventive surgery because they are at a very high risk for breast and ovarian cancers."

Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York told All Things Considered that the study "confirms powerfully that genetic testing as well as surgery together are a powerful strategy to prevent breast and ovarian cancer."

In January, NPR's Richard Knox reported on the debate over the best way to detect breast cancers.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

Source: NPR


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Comments [4]

liz from nj

My mom had ovarian fallopian cancer. And. My grand mother died. From Colon can cer my two sisters & I had full hysterectomies.. none of us tested positive for the cancer gene.

May. 15 2013 07:21 AM
Mary Prinzivalli

What I don't hear anyone talking about is what do those of us who do not have health insurance or the means for insurance, those of us who do not have paid sick leave or the means for sick leave do if we have a family history of breast cancer?

May. 15 2013 06:48 AM

@ breetai3 from NYC
I'll leave Peggy O. to weigh in directly herself, but in that article she does make a distinction between BRCA and other kinds of cancer risk. That said, people should know that BRCA only accounts for a small % of breast or ovarian cancer diagnoses, so encouraging testing for all is not necessarily good advise at all. Rates of prophylactic mastectomy are higher in the U.S. than among BRCA carriers in other countries, which is interesting. But the risk issues are quite different for this group than the general population.

Here, the issues are the patenting of genes! I hope that gets some play in this discussion.

May. 14 2013 04:39 PM
breetai3 from NYC

Reading this news today gets me thinking about the interview Brian Lehrer did with Peggy Orenstein a couple weeks ago:

I would love to know Peggy's take on this? I found that piece very informative and I feel like a preventative double mastectomy seems so drastic when it is unknown what type of cancer may develop, and how invasive it would be, and that simply having the knowledge you are high risk should be enough to keep monitoring for it instead of going right for a double mastectomy.

May. 14 2013 10:39 AM

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