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In a moving op-ed in the New York Times this morning, Angelina Jolie reveals that she recently underwent surgery for a preventative double mastectomy. She says she made the decision after learning that she carries the gene, BRCA1, which put her personally at an 87 percent risk for developing breast cancer and 50 percent risk for developing ovarian cancer.
She was motivated to undergo the preventative double mastectomy in part by the fact that her own mother died of breast cancer at age 56. She writes:
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.Jolie explains that she's sharing her medical choice publicly because she hopes other women can benefit from her experience. She says:
We often speak of Ã¢â‚¬Å“MommyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mommy,Ã¢â‚¬Â 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 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 donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.Breast cancer kills 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, but Jolie emphasizes that genetic testing allows women to have more control over their fates. She says: "Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."