Angelina Jolie underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she was at a high risk of getting breast cancer. In an op-ed piece for Tuesday's New York Times, Jolie writes about deciding to move forward with the procedure, which she completed in April.
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"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," Jolie wrote. "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."
In 2007, Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died at age 56 after battling cancer for almost a decade. After Jolie discovered that she had inherited a "faulty" gene with an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, she decided to take preventive measures.
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Though the actress was happy to keep the surgery private until now, she hopes her story will inspire others to get tested and to understand their options. In regards to many women's hesitations about mastectomies, Jolie reassures that when it comes to her partner Brad Pitt and their six children, nothing has changed. "It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable," Jolie said of her children's response to the procedure. "They can see my small scars and that's it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
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"I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition," Jolie continued. "We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has."
Pitt hailed Jolie's decision as "absolutely heroic." "Having witnessed this decision firsthand, I find Angie's choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic. I thank our medical team for their care and focus," he told Britain's The Standard. "All I want for is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children. This is a happy day for our family."
Jolie, who turns 38 next month, describes the procedure, including receiving implants, in detail within the piece. She will also post more information about her regimen on the Pink Lotus Breast Center website later on.
"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of," Jolie concluded.