Angelina Jolie has had both of her breasts removed as a proactive measure to prevent breast cancer.
The 37-year-old actress made the announcement in an op-ed piece she wrote exclusively for today's New York Times.
The Oscar-winning actress, who is in a long term relationship with actor Brad Pitt, said she underwent the double mastectomy after doctors found a gene that makes the probability of her developing breast cancer very high.
She said she made the choice with thoughts of her six children after watching her own mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, die at a young age from cancer.
Quoting her 6 children, Jolie writes, "They have asked if the same could happen to me."
Jolie wrote that finding the "faulty" BRCA1 gene meant she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer herself.
"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56," Jolie writes. "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."
"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."
Jolie described the procedure as feeling like a scene out of a science fiction movie.
From The NY Times:
"My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a 'nipple delay,'" she writes, "which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area."
She then describes the major surgery two weeks later where breast tissue was removed, saying it felt "like a scene out of a science-fiction film," then writes that nine weeks later she had a third surgery to reconstruct the breasts and receive implants."
Many women have chosen preventive mastectomy since genetic screening for breast cancer was developed, but the move and public announcement is unprecedented from a star so young and widely known as Jolie.
"I do not feel any less of a woman," Jolie writes. "I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
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