Angelina Jolie had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed last week after doctors detected early signs of cancer.
“Two years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. 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,” Jolie wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday.
“I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes,” the 39-year-old actress said.
The procedure had been pre-planned, she explained, and while it is less complex than her previous mastectomy, the “effects are more severe” because it “puts a woman into forced menopause.”
The Oscar-winner thought that she had months before she needed to have the surgery, but two weeks ago she got a call from doctors with results from a recent blood test showing markers that could be a sign of early cancer.
“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,” Jolie said.
She immediately called husband, Brad Pitt, who was by her side within hours, and the couple found clarity together. “You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful,” she said.
The “Unbroken” director went to see the surgeon who treated her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died of ovarian cancer at age 56 in 2007, for additional tests.
Five days later she learned that the tumor test was negative. “There was still a chance of early stage cancer, but that was minor compared with a full-blown tumor. To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it,” Jolie told the Times.
She did not decide to take that step just because she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, but also due to the fact that three women in her family have died from cancer.
“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,’” she wrote.
The mother of six will not be able to have any more children and is now in menopause, but she feels “at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.”